McAuley winner fires Ireland U17's into UEFA European Championships with win over Slovakia
A 66th minute winner from Liverpool's Glen McAuley has fired the Ireland U17's into the UEFA U17 Championships Finals with a 1-0 win over Slovakia.
McAuley's second-half strike was the difference between the two sides in Cyprus as Colin O'Brien's team are guaranteed a top two spot in their group due to hosts Cyprus being held to a scoreless draw by the Faroe Islands in the group’s other fixture today.
Ireland will secure one of the best runner-up spots regardless of how they fare in their final group game against the Cypriots on Monday, and O'Brien insists that the players deserve to go to the European Championships in Croatia in May.
"We deserve this as a group," said O'Brien.
"The players especially deserve this, there’s great willingness to learn and they’ve worked so hard with all of the staff to keep developing as a team.
“People in the game back home, especially involved in the youth game, know there is a lot of good work going on. There’s a lot of talent in the country and the national team doing well shows we’re doing something right with our methods.
“It must be said that there is a lot going on around the country. Coach Education has improved so much in recent years. It’s a great day for everybody who has worked with the players since their earliest days, they began the development and we’ve added our bit onto that.
“Today is about celebrating a very good achievement. They’ll never forget this St Patrick’s Day and it’s a great occasion for their families and friends.
“They’ll recover tomorrow and Sunday we’ll prepare for the Cyprus game and we want to top the group if we can.”
Ireland will play Cyprus on Monday in the finale of the UEFA U17 Elite Round in Paphos.