Wednesday 21 August 2019

Portugal hold too many aces as Ireland's Armenian adventure is ended

Portugal U-19 4 Ireland U-19 0

24 July 2019; Gonçalo Ramos of Portugal shoots to score his side's third goal during the 2019 UEFA U19 Championships semi-final match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at Banants Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
24 July 2019; Gonçalo Ramos of Portugal shoots to score his side's third goal during the 2019 UEFA U19 Championships semi-final match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at Banants Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

For the second season running, a 4-0 defeat to Portugal ended Ireland's U-19 campaign.

Tom Mohan's class of 2018 - that included Mark Travers, Michael Obafemi and Conor Coventry - bowed out in the Euro qualifiers.

Tyreik Wright of Republic of Ireland and Costinha of Portugal contend for the ball. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Tyreik Wright of Republic of Ireland and Costinha of Portugal contend for the ball. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Yesterday's elimination came at the finals' semi-final stages.

In both games, the Portuguese were the superior side, fuelling talk of another golden generation in Iberia.

The holders will face Spain in Saturday's final aiming to complete another season of distinction at underage level for the nation.

It comes on the back of Porto's home-produced squad edging the European heavyweights to lift the UEFA Youth League in April.

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Brian Maher reacts after conceeding his side's third goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Brian Maher reacts after conceeding his side's third goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland are at a different stage of development, although a positive outlook is being created. They've participated in the U-17 and U-19 finals in the same summer for the first time since 2002 and the U-21s reached the Toulon Tournament for the first time in the FAI's history.

It's encouraging contrast to the off-field controversies attached to Irish football at present .

Stephen Kenny, who was with the U-19s in Armenia during eight days of the group stage, emphasised the controversy doesn't impair his work with the U-21s.

Mohan is also far too pragmatic to be distracted, as shown by the achievement of his team in Armenia. Like last season, he had most of his first-choice players available for the elite qualifiers in March. The only one drawing talent from his clutches was Kenny, who graduated a quartet to his ranks.

Kameron Ledwidge of Republic of Ireland during the 2019 UEFA U19 Championships semi-final match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at Banants Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kameron Ledwidge of Republic of Ireland during the 2019 UEFA U19 Championships semi-final match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at Banants Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Those resources were stretched to unprecedented levels heading to Yerevan. Twenty minutes into the opening group game against Norway last Monday, they trailed and were being pinned back - it seemed a long week was ahead.

Instead, they earned a draw, lost narrowly to France before sealing a semi-final berth by beating Czech Republic. Yesterday's match in the afternoon heat - their fourth in nine days - was always likely to be a test too far.

Still, there were moments they will dwell on during the long trip home.

Behind on the half hour to Vitor Ferreira's penalty, Ireland wasted a couple of golden chances.

Barry Coffey couldn't get his shot beyond Costinha on the goal-line and Mark McGuinness thundered his effort off the crossbar.

One-way traffic ensued. João Mário's pitched cross gave Ramos a simple header in first-half stoppage time.

The same pair produced the third on the hour, with Benfica forward Ramos finishing off a flowing move with a first-time finish.

Although Kameron Ledwidge forced a superb save out of goalkeeper Celton Biai, Ramos was allowed roam into the box to bury a low shot for his hat-trick in injury-time.

PORTUGAL - Celton Biai; Costinha, Loureiro (Levi Faustino 80), Cardoso, Tavares; Vitor Ferreira (Costa 69), Diogo Capitao, Fabio Vieira; João Mário (Gouveia 69), Ramos, Felix Correia.

IRELAND - B Maher; A Lyons, M McGuinness, O McEntee, K Ledwidge; J Hodge (A Omobamidele 81), B Coffey (C Grant 67); C Brennan (F Ebosele 42), B Kavanagh (J James 46), M Everitt (T Wilson 81); A Reghba,

Ref - Kristo Tohver (EST).

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