Celtic target Byrne's brace puts Ireland in pole position for finals berth
Ireland U-19 2 Iceland U-19 1 - European U-19 Championship qualifier
Sam Byrne and Roy Keane were united in Ireland's cause last night and could soon be reunited at Celtic Park.
A second-half brace by Byrne against Iceland ensured the Irish U-19s began their European Championship elite qualifiers with three points that puts them firmly into contention to secure the one berth available for the Hungary finals in July.
With the other two nations in their elite group, Serbia and Turkey, drawing 1-1 earlier in the day, this victory gives Paul Doolin's side a distinct edge in the round-robin series.
For Byrne, recently released by Manchester United, this was the perfect lift. Several scouts were at Tallaght Stadium to watch the free agent, with Celtic one of the early favourites for his services.
Ireland didn't have it easy, with the visitors dangerous in front of goal.
FC Copenhagen striker Kristján Flóki Finnbogason forced goalkeeper Eric Grimes to tip over a stinging drive on the half hour, while, from the resulting corner, left-back Adam Orn Arnarsson drilled wide.
There was a sign of better things to come for the Irish, though, when three minutes before the interval, the lively Byrne swivelled 20 yards out and sent his shot over the crossbar.
On 51 minutes, Shelbourne winger Dylan Connolly teed up Thomas Mulroney to cross from the left and his delivery was glanced home at the far post by the alert Byrne.
The teen from Kill in Co Kildare once again put his head to good use on the hour to double the lead.
It didn't take long for Iceland to put a more realistic reflection on the scoreline. Emil Asmundsson's free-kick on 67 minutes was allowed glide all the way to Evar-Ingi Johnannesson 10 yards out, who guided his header into the bottom corner to half the deficit.
Ireland held out and now meet Turkey tomorrow before completing the pool against Serbia on Monday.
"It's still reasonably early in the group, but it's a great start for us," said Doolin afterwards.
"We were slow enough in the first half, though neither side wanted to make any mistakes.
"Our display improved in the second half and Sam took his two goals very well."
Rep of Ireland – Grimes (Leeds Utd); Baba (Fulham), Long (Reading), McFadden (Norwich City), Mosley (Birmingham City); Browne (Preston NE), Mulroney (St Patrick's Athletic); Connolly (Shelbourne), O'Hanlon (Liverpool) (Crowe 90), McCarthy (Sunderland) (Goldsmith 77); Byrne (Manchester United).
Iceland – Runarsson: Arnarsson (Guomundsson 80), Gretarsson, Friojonsson, Ingason; Bjornsson (Egisson 73), Asmundsson; Bergsson (Olafsson 63), Finnbogason, Johnannesson; Ómarsson.
Referee – A Treimanis (Lva)