Ireland’s under-17 team recorded their second win of the UEFA Elite qualifying series this afternoon when James McCarthy scored a second-half winner against Greece in Schuttorf, Germany for the side 1-0.
Germany’s 4-1 win over Scotland earlier today puts them ahead of Ireland at the top of the four-nation group on goal difference.
The joint-leaders of the table meet in the final game in Nordhorn next Monday (kick-off 5pm) with Ireland knowing that a win would clinch them the group and with it, a coveted place at the Under-17 European Championship Finals this May in Belgium. Germany require a draw to be sure of qualification.
Hamilton Academicals midfielder James McCarthy impressed on his competitive debut on Wednesday against his native Scotland in the 2-1 win and his importance in the team was emphasised further with his crucial winning goal.
Greece frustrated a rampant Ireland in the first-half with a defensive performance but McCarthy succeeded in breaking the deadlock two minutes after half-time.
Kurtis Byrne made an industrious run down the right channel, turning inside his marker before teeing up McCarthy on the edge of the box, who controlled the ball before tucking a low shot past the goalkeeper into the corner.
The goal calmed the Irish team that had seen their first-half onslaught yield little in terms of clear-cut chances. Kurtis Byrne’s direct running on the right-wing carved open the Greece defence and the main opportunity fell to defender Laurence Gaughan from a set-piece but the Liverpool prospect’s header from close-range angled wide.
Conor McCormack and McCarthy were presented with further chances of giving Ireland an interval lead only for the resolute Greece defence to hold firm under pressure.
Substitute Ian Daly got into a threatening position on the hour mark when McCarthy’s shot was blocked into his path. The Manchester City netted Ireland’s two goals against the Scots but he found the Greek goalkeeper equal to his shot and the winning margin was kept to 1-0.
Ireland manager Sean McCaffrey paid tribute to his squad for a second courageous triumph in the space of three days and looked forward to the showdown against Germany on Monday.
“Greece were a difficult side to break down but James McCarthy took his goal ever so well. We were never in danger of conceding a goal from Greece but in International football, a second goal is always necessary to kill off the opposition.
“We lacked a bit of penetration in the first-half but improved after half-time. All the chances were created by us in the second half but I’m delighted to have six points on the board after two games.
“Our lads have been magnificent this week. I always said that we would have to beat Germany to win this group and that’s the way it’s turned out.
“The support we’ve received out here from our own fans and the German public has been tremendous. I think the locals have wanted to see it come down the final game between us two nations and hopefully, we will give them a good game.”
He added: “We have a few injury worries. James McCarthy had to be substituted with a thigh strain and he will be doing well to be fit for Monday. A few of the others are doubts but that’s to be expected after two tough matches.”
Republic of Ireland: Kieron Thorp (Crystal Palace), Gareth Matthews (Norwich City), Paul Honohan (Wilton Utd), David Joyce (Birmingham City), Laurence Gaughan (Liverpool), Conor McCormack (Manchester U), James McCarthy (Hamilton Academicals), Kurtis Byrne (Norwich City), Shane O’Connor (Liverpool), Michael Collins (Liverpool), Sean Scannell (Crystal Palace).
Substitutes: Ian Daly (Manchester City) and Gearoid Morrissey (Ringmahon Rgs) for O’Connor and Collins (both 40 mins). Craig Duggan (Kilreen Celtic) for McCarthy (72 mins)