Saturday, July 17, 2010

Girls settle for fourth; boys evade relegation

Ireland U-16 girls rallied late but left it too late as Belgium took bronze at the European Championships in Barcelona with a 2-1 win to end a dramatic week.

Sharp-shooter Katie Mullan fired home a 64th minute corner and pressure in the closing minutes earned another corner on the final whistle for Ireland. But they were unable to convert a set-piece which would have earned extra-time in the third/fourth place playoff.

Belgium had whipped into a 2-0 half-time lead of a tie short on chances. Ireland’s defence, meanwhile, shone in the second period but clear chances only came to the fore belatedly and while the Irish girls poured forward in the last ten minutes, the Belgians stuck it out.

The boys, meanwhile, retained A division status with a 2-2 draw against Poland, playing for the fifth successive game in the midday heat. A ten goal win was needed to snaffle fifth place but that never looked likely and the single point was enough to relegate the Poles.

It was 38 degrees this time around but Ireland recovered from the concession of a seventh minute corner drag-flick to lead 2-1.

David Cole – who was outstanding next to Matthew Rollins in the centre-backs – equalised with a corner effort before Scott Sullivan’s pass picked out Kirk Shimmins to slot home a one-on-one effort.

Again, sharpness in front of goal was a factor in not killing off the tie as two Polish players were sin-binned. They nicked an equaliser a couple of minutes from time with a smart deflection but Ireland held on to stay up.

It ended an, at times, frustrating week for the Irish boys who were competitive in each game and might have pushed on for a medal on another week.

They created numerous chances but lacked the cutting edge – perhaps due to no competitive warm-up fixtures and a three month wait since the school’s league season – to grab vital goals.

U-16 Boys European Championships – Group C final table
1. Russia 7pts (+12) 2. Ireland 5pts (+3) 3. Poland 4pts (-1) 4. Czech Republic 0pts (-15)

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