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REPORT | Ireland MU17 2-0 North Macedonia MU17

Mark O’Mahony celebrates his goal against North Macedonia   SPORTSFILE
The Republic of Ireland have secured their progression to the UEFA Under-17 European Championship qualifying Elite Round with a game to spare as they deservedly defeated a tough North Macedonia side 2-0 at Turner’s Cross on Sunday.

In front of 925 local fans, a thunderbolt from Rocco Vata in the first half following by a supremely confident finish from Mark O’Mahony in the second period ensured the young Boys in Green made it two wins out of two to ease through to the next stage of the qualifiers ahead of their top of the group decider with Poland on Wednesday afternoon.

Head Coach Colin O’Brien made two changes to his starting eleven that impressively defeated Andorra 5-0 at this venue on Thursday night with O’Mahony and Trent Kone Doherty coming into the attack in place of Franco Umeh and Caden McLoughlin.

North Macedonia showed in their hard-fought 0-0 with a talented Poland side that same afternoon that they weren’t going to be an easy side to break down.

Ireland dominated proceedings but they found clear-cut goalscoring opportunities difficult to come by with the brilliant Kevin Zefi, Kone Doherty, and Justin Ferizaj all trying their luck from distance but neither of the three caused the visiting goalkeeper a real problem.

The hosts needed a moment of inspiration and in the 32nd minute, Rocco Vata provided it as from close to 25 yards, the Celtic playmaker unleashed a stunning strike that flew across the keeper and into the far top left corner to finally give his country the lead.

The visitors grew into the contest as the game progressed but it was the Irish that went closest to scoring the crucial second goal at the beginning of the second 45 but Cork City’s Cathal Heffernan sent a header crashing against the far post.

His clubmates would combine to seal the win in the 73rd minute when the recently introduced Franco Umeh teed up O’Mahony and after his first touch took the ball away from goal, the number nine smartly backheeled it past the keeper from close range.

Republic of Ireland: Walsh; Curtis, Heffernan, Browne, O’Brien; McManus, Vata (McLoughlin 80), Ferizaj; Kone Doherty (Umeh 72), O’Mahony, Zefi (Nolan 89).

North Macedonia: Stojanovikj; Janevski, Stojilevski, Markovski, Arizankoski; Zendelovski, Gjorgievski (Sulejman 88), Tairi; Stojanov, Nazifi, Elmas.

Referee: Adam Ladeback (Sweden).

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