O'Brien grabs two as King's squad grows in confidence
IRELAND U-21 3 NETHERLANDS U-21 0
COMPREHENSIVE victories over top-tier nations are not to be sniffed at, even if the Dutch side that visited Tallaght Stadium was far from full strength.
Ireland manager Noel King was not getting too carried away with this friendly win, but he was all smiles as he reflected on a fine performance from a squad that featured 12 debutants.
Two first-half goals from Millwall striker Aiden O'Brien (pictured below), set the tone, before Wolves' Anthony Forde completed the job after half-time. Both players impressed, while Samir Carruthers was another who caught the eye.
"When do you beat the Netherlands 3-0? When do you beat them at all? It's a great result," King said, although he did admit that his team were unlucky not to be behind when O'Brien swept home Matt Doherty's cross after 10 minutes.
Ireland had started brightly, but a couple of nervy moments from centre-half Derrick Williams handed chances to the visitors.
The game swung when Forde fed Doherty to cross for O'Brien whose finish gave Stefan van der Lei little chance. The striker could have scored again when gifted the ball by Timo Letschert, but he couldn't beat van der Lei from 18 yards.
The Dutch hit the post when Wolves stopper Aaron McCarey parried captain Schalk's effort and his second attempt from a narrow angle cannoned off the upright, before O'Brien made up for his earlier miss, doubling Ireland's lead before half-time in similar circumstances. Forde's free-kick was flicked on by captain Shane Duffy and the Millwall man was on hand to finish well.
The striker had to go off before the hat-trick chance presented itself, so Forde picked himself up after being fouled by Letschert and sent van der Lei the wrong way to make it three.
With a tough group for the 2015 European Championships qualifiers beginning in August, this was a boost for King's charges.
"It gives the players confidence when they are new to the set-up," the manager said.
"Particularly against the Netherlands. If you can do it against them, you can, in theory, do it against anyone."
It was just a shame nobody from the senior set up witnessed it.
IRELAND – McCarey (McDermott h-t); Doherty (Shaughnessy h-t), Williams (O'Connor h-t), Duffy, McGinty (McHugh h-t); Ferdinand (O'Sullivan 35), Reilly (Bolger 64); Murray, Carruthers (Sutherland h-t), Forde; O'Brien (Forrester 52).
NETHERLANDS – Van Der Lei (Verhulst h-t); Te Wierik, Letschert (Veltman h-t), Van De Pavert (Denswil h-t), Bakker (Van Ooijen h-t); Jansen, Drost (Foor h-t), Ziyech; Slagveer (Lukoki h-t), Schalk (Valpoort h-t), Elbers.
REF – M Smyth (Northern Ireland)