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Collins hits treble as U21s avoid slip-up

SHREWSBURY Town striker James Collins became the first Ireland U21 player in eight years to score a hat-trick as Noel King's side recovered from an early scare to win 4-1 in the snow of Liechtenstein.

Not since Stephen Elliott hit a three-goal blast against Poland in 2003 had an Ireland U21 international scored three in the same game.

But former Aston Villa man Collins came up with the goods in Eschen last night as Ireland now third in the table in their five-team qualification group with six points from three games, six points behind leaders Turkey.

"We didn't start the game well, but our aerial strength made the difference and James took all his three goals very well," said manager King.

"Turkey came here and scored twice -- we got four. That says a lot about the attacking power of our team."

Despite falling behind to a goal from the hosts' Simon Pirker in the 14th minute, the Irish responded with character to kill the game off before the break. On 26 minutes, Robbie Brady's pinpoint corner was nodded home by the unmarked Collins.

Four minutes later, senior international Greg Cunningham, making his U21 debut, crossed for Collins to head home. And a minute later Collins had his third of the night, heading an Aidan White cross into the net.

Ireland completed the rout when Everton's Shane Duffy -- on loan to Scunthorpe United -- scored his first international goal from a Brady corner.

The Irish side next face the same side at home in November, before a seven-month break in the qualifiers and a subsequent game against Italy.

REP OF IRELAND: McLoughlin (MK Dons); Connolly (Bolton Wanderers), Canavan (Scunthorpe), Kiernan (Wigan Athletic), Cunningham (Manchester City); Brady (Hull City), Towell (Hibernian), Clifford (Chelsea), White (Leeds United); Barton (Preston North End); Collins (Shrewsbury Town). Subs: Hourihane (Plymouth Argyle) for Clifford (66 mins), Stevens (Shamrock Rovers) for Cunningham (69 mins), Greene (Sligo Rovers) for Brady (79 mins).