The young Irish hold Italians to a goalless draw in under-21 Euro 2021 qualifier


Over 7,000 people came out in the wind and heavy rain at the Tallaght stadium in Dublin to see a young Irish side go toe-to-toe with a very experienced Italy team.

It was an Italian side that could afford to leave 40 million Euros worth of talent on the bench in Moise Kean and Patrick Cutrone.

While the match ended 0-0, a young Irish side re-affirmed their potential talent, fighting on all fronts with a star-studded Italian side.

Italy started well and the Irish were chasing shadows for the first 15 minutes, perhaps giving the Italians to much respect. But in that time only Andrea Pinamonti had a clear chance – his header from eight-yards out flashing past Kelleher’s far post.

Ireland grew into the game after with some slick passing from Conor Ronan, who was always busy in midfield.

This young Irish team can no doubt play some great football but they also match their technical proficiency with that Irish fire and desire to win.

This game was a fiery affair. Tensions began to boil over towards the end of the first half, Jayson Molumby was unhappy with a wayward elbow from the Italian Sandro Tonali and he was not afraid to let him know about it.

There was a number of similar altercations throughout the game, one of which resulted in red cards for Troy Parrott and Moise Kean. It was harsh on both players, but it typified this hard fought match.

Photo: Stephen Gormley (Red Eye Photo Agency)

The match ended in a stalemate but more importantly, highlighted that Ireland had a young-side that could fight on all fronts against top European sides.

Many Ireland teams have had these battling qualities with heart and spirit but that usually only gets you so far. But in this squad, there is a little sprinkle of magic to match.

Not since the time of Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne has an Ireland under-21 age team excited the Irish public so much. That was over twenty years ago!

Now the names of Caoimhin Kelleher, Conor Masterson, Adam Idah, Troy Parrott and Conor Ronan are already being talked about as future senior internationals.

In addition, Michael Obafemi is already a senior international and is playing in the Premier League with Southampton at only 19 years of age. Furthermore, Aaron Connolly is going to make his senior debut on Saturday after two goals for Brighton on his debut playing Spurs.

Photo: Stephen Gormley (Red Eye Photo Agency)

Ireland’s under-21 manager Stephen Kenny said after the game.

“It was a extraordinary game really, there’s a definite feeling of disappointment in the dressing room which shows how far the players have come in such a short space of time. We’ve played one of the top two teams in Europe and we’re disappointed not to win.

“That was a real international match. There was an edge to every tackle. There wasn’t a feeling of accomplishment having got the draw in the dressing room.

It was sort of like, that was a couple of points that got away. we’re fourth seeds and we’re thinking it is between us and them winning the group. That’s the way we need to be thinking.”

Kenny takes his young squad to Iceland next without Parrott, Jonathon Afolabi and Aaron Connolly and has challenged his young men to keep the momentum going.

Stephen Kenny takes over the Ireland senior team in August 2020 and the strong expectation is that a lot of these young players will follow him on the step up to the main international squad. There’s also hope that the same exciting style of football will follow them over too.

Photo: Stephen Gormley (Red Eye Photo Agency)


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