THE Republic of Ireland Development squad ran out winners of the Mayo International Cup in Castlebar on Sunday (23 August 2015) after a 3-0 victory over Northern Ireland on the final day of the competition.
Tom O'Connor's side won all four fixtures in the competition and conceded just one goal so the Irish performance over the weekend was very promising.
Kevin Healy helped force the opening goal after a short corner-kick routine then player of the tournament Aaron Connolly made it 2-0 after being put through on the Northern Ireland keeper. A counter-attack led to the third goal with Lee O'Connor finding the net.
"It was a very good weekend. It was well organised and well run as always," said Head Coach Tom O'Connor.
"The players got a lot of game time and played against teams with different playing styles.
"We were defensively sound and our passing out from the back was very evident from the work that has been done with the Emerging Talent Programme. Aaron Connolly got player of the tournament and his finishing was exceptional. We'll be looking for a lot of the others to step to the mark in terms of putting the ball in the net."
O'Connor's side began the tournament with a 5-1 win over Chesterfield. Gavin Kilkenny opened the scoring in the first minute then just two minutes later Connolly made it 2-0 after he received the ball 25 yards from goal and finished it in superb style to the top corner.
Aaron Bolger set up the third Irish goal in the tenth minute when he slipped the ball through to Cian Murphy who made no mistake and five minutes before the break it was 4-0 after Dominic Peppard headed home.
Chesterfield pulled one back with a Maasai Dearlove penalty early in the second half then five minutes from time Chesterfield's Jordan Wells put the ball in his own net.
Next up with Millwall and the Irish ran out 4-0 victors. Connolly made it 1-0 on 17 minutes when he latched on to a ball over the top and knocked it past keeper Joseph Wright.
Connolly had a hand in the second goal on 23 minutes when his shot was parried by Wright and Thomas Caffrey converted the loose ball. Ten minutes after the break Ireland went 3-0 up as Jordan Doherty struck a brilliant effort from 25 yards out.
Cian Lee set up the fourth Irish goal with a brilliant cross from the right wing which Connolly headed to the roof of the net.
Ireland then beat the FAI Castlebar select 3-0 in a decent encounter. In the final minute of the first half a terrific through ball sent Connolly through to slot the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Castlebar started the second half on the front foot and had a brilliantly struck free-kick tipped over the bar by the Irish keeper Patryk Osinski.
Five minutes in Ireland went 2-0 up. A pass from FAI Castlebar's goalkeeper was intercepted by Connelly and he calmly finished his second of the game. Ireland grabbed the final goal of the game two minutes from time with a delightful finish by their tricky winger Yassine En-Neyah into the corner of the net just outside of keeper Lorcan Callaghan's reach.
"The Castlebar side were very good too and some of those players will be candidates for the international squad this year too," said O'Connor.
"The players will have benefited from this experience. You could see the work had been done both offensively and defensively. When they progress to the next stage in international football the work done in learning how to keep clean sheets will stand to them.
"There'll be a training camp in September and a development tournament later in the year. Ireland U17 coach Tom Mohan was here attending the tournament so maybe they'll catch his eye and be possibilities for the U17s too."
MAYO INTERNATIONAL CUP 2015 RESULTS
Rep of Ireland 3-0 Northern Ireland
Millwall FC 2-1 Chesterfield FC
Chesterfield FC 1-3 FAI Castlebar
Millwall FC 0-4 Rep of Ireland
Northern Ireland 2-1 Chesterfield FC
Rep of Ireland 3-0 FAI Castlebar
Northern Ireland 2-1 Millwall FC
FAI Castlebar 3-1 Northern Ireland
Chesterfield FC 1-5 Rep of Ireland
Millwall FC 3-2 FAI Castlebar