Grego-Cox sinks Israel with stylish hat-trick
Ireland U-21 4-0 Israel U-21
As Ireland's search for a successor to Robbie Keane continues, Reece Grego-Cox put his hand up as a contender by nestling a hat-trick for the Under-21s yesterday.
The Queens Park Rangers attacker first came to prominence when handed a Premier League debut in 2015 at the age of 18 but he is only making an impact at international level in recent times.
After scoring in last month's win over Azerbaijan, the 20-year-old then spurned a chance to be the difference in Thursday's scoreless draw with Norway.
His shooting boots were firmly back on his feet back at Tallaght Stadium yesterday and once he opened his account after 40 seconds from close range, Ireland remained in control to make it 10 points from their opening four European Championship qualifiers.
It means they enjoy a four-point lead at the top of Group Five approaching the midway point of the campaign in Oslo against Norway on November 14.
Beating second seeds Israel, and with plenty to spare, provides optimism that Ireland can challenge to participate at their first major U-21 tournament but holders Germany remain favourites to secure the one automatic ticket to the 2019 finals.
Whatever comes of the campaign, signs are promising that material exists for senior internationals to emerge.
Grego-Cox could be one such candidate based on his predatory instincts.
His clinical edge was showcased in the first minute when he steered a left-wing cross from club-mate Ryan Manning home.
Harry Charsley added a second 10 minutes before the break with an angled half-volley and Grego-Cox made it 3-0 from the penalty spot two minutes later.
The striker, who declared for Ireland at 16 through his Clare-born grandmother, completed his hat-trick six minutes after the interval from close range.
"It was a relief to get a few goals because I wanted to redeem myself for letting the chance pass against Norway," he said.
IRELAND - K O'Hara (Manchester United); C Whelan (Liverpool), R Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), S Donnellan (Walsall), D Kane (Huddersfield Town); D Rice (West Ham), J Cullen (Bolton Wanderers); H Charsley (Everton), R Manning (QPR), R Curtis (Derry City); R Grego-Cox (QPR). Subs: J Mulraney (Inverness) for Grego-Cox (70), C Shaughnessy (Leeds Utd) for Rice (78), J Quigley (Newport County) for Charsley (81).
Ref - F San (SUI).