Ireland U21s play out draw with Israel in play-off first leg
Tallaght man, Jim Crawford saw his Republic of Ireland Under 21's draw 1-1 with Israel in the first leg of their UEFA European Championship play-off

Ireland U21s play out draw with Israel in play-off first leg

The Republic of Ireland U21s kept their UEFA European Championship qualification hopes alive by claiming a 1-1 draw against Israel in a first leg play-off at Tallaght Stadium last night.


Having fallen behind to an Idan Gorno goal in the opening period of the game, the hosts desperately sought an equaliser to put them in good stead for next Tuesday’s return leg. 17-year-old Brighton & Hove Albion attacker Evan Ferguson provided the big moment just past the hour mark as he rose highest to head home a Tyreik Wright corner.


There was considerable local interest in this game, with Ireland boss Jim Crawford leading the side into battle in his home village of Tallaght. It was also a big evening for Joe Redmond as the St Patrick’s Athletic defender was making his debut at the U21 international grade.


His club-mate David Odomosu was named on the bench alongside Crawford’s fellow Tallaght man Mipo Odubeko, while Shamrock Rovers wing-back Andy Lyons was also listed in reserve.


Aaron Connolly (who has eight senior international caps to his name) was a high-profile inclusion in the starting line-up and he was desperately unfortunate to see an early effort crashing against the woodwork. Will Smallbone subsequently forced an excellent stop from Israeli custodian Daniel Peretz, before Ireland number one Brian Maher did likewise after Mohammed Kanaan tried luck off a free-kick.


The Derry City star also denied Kanaan off a later attack, only for Gorno to head beyond his reach off the resulting corner.


It was a set-back for Ireland to be going in 1-0 adrift at the interval, but they pressed strongly for an opening goal of their own after the resumption. Their persistence paid off on 64 minutes when Ferguson perfectly met Wright’s delivery from the left-wing, beating his compatriot Eiran Cashin to the ball in the air.


This raised the roof off the Tallaght Stadium and when Stav Lemkin was dismissed for fouling Connolly 10 minutes from time, the momentum was with Ireland. Smallbone and Connolly went close to grabbing a winning goal in the closing moments, but even though the tie remains delicately poised, Ireland will certainly believe they are capable of going a step further in Tel Aviv and advancing to a major championship finals for the first time.

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