Republic of Ireland have won their first significant international honour with a 4-1 win over Italy at Dublin’s Dalymount Park in the UEFA U21 European Championship Final.
The hosts started brightest and came close inside three minutes when centre-back Gerard Flanaghan headed against the far post from a deep corner from Peterborough midfielder Emmet King. Ten minutes later, King’s short free-kick was worked by Dean O’Meara to Gavin French who had his shot pushed on to the post by the Italian ‘keeper.
The Italians had their first effort on target on 25 minutes played when Gennaro Tutino’s surge towards goal ended with a fierce 20-yard effort that Darragh McEntee had be smart to react to and tip it round the post.
On half-hour, the Irish persistence paid off as Gavin French timed his run perfectly to meet O’Meara’s cross from the left and looped his header over Niccolò Rossetti to the delight of the majority of the 10,000-strong crowd in Dublin.
Italy made two changes at the break, including the unusual move of bringing on Samuele Piazzi in goal. He kept out a pair of Irish efforts before the hosts got a second with an hour played. A cross from Dave Murray was headed away but under pressure, half-time sub Flavio Liberti played his backpass to Piazzi short and Emmet King nipped in to score from ten yards.
Glauco D’Elia got in behind the Irish defence on 72 minutes, bringing down a long-ball from Loernzo Gentili before chesting it down, and taking it round McEntee to make it 2-1. Ireland restored the two-goal advantage almost straight away through Finbar Harkin. Anthony Tracey beat Gennaro Tutino to the ball and knocked it back to Ross Devaney who lobbed it into the box for Harkin to control, set himself, and crack a low drive home for Ireland.
A last-ditch tackle in the 82nd minute by Devaney as D’Elia looked certain to score was the last of the Italian chances, and Dave Murray wrapped-up a famous victory with 93:26 on the clock when he tapped home after King flicked on a Eoin Bermingham corner to the far post.
Neal Maupay of France (who beat Romania 3-2 in a Playoff Qualifier for the 2020 Olympics) finished the tournament as top scorer with eight goals in five games.
UEFA U21 CHAMPIONSHIPS: FINAL IRELAND 4-1 ITALY French 30 D'Elia 72 King 61 Harkin 76 Murray 90+4 Dalymount Park, Dublin
IRELAND U21 ITALY U21 1. D.McEntee Doncaster | 1. N.Rossetti Lazio 2. B.McLaughlin - | 2. T.Materazzo Catania 5. G.Shanaham Burnley | 5. P.Cantile - 4. G.Flanagan Wolves | 4. L.Vélez Fiorentina 3. R.Devaney Bristol City | 3. M.Cento Real Madrid 7. B.Miller St Patrick's | 7. G.Tutino Napoli 6. I.Fallon Rochdale | 8. C.Davoli Inter 8. E.Bermingham Doncaster | 6. L.Gentili Roma 11. D.O'Meara Shamrock | 11. A.Panepinto Juventus 9. E.King Peterborough | 9. G.D'Elia Palermo 10. G.French Sligo Rovers | 10. E.Mancinelli Dortmund ------------------------------ | ------------------------------ 16. F.Harkin Rochdale | 12. S.Piazzi PSG 17. A.Tracey Sligo Rovers | 15. S.Selvaggio Atalanta 19. D.Murray - | 16. F.Liberti Sochaux