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Dublin: 3°C Friday 23 April 2021

Crawford 'delighted' with victory for new-look Ireland U21 side

The Irish youngsters came from behind to beat Wales in a friendly in Wrexham earlier today.

the-ireland-team The Ireland team pictured before kick-off. Source: Andrew Dowling/INPHO

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U21 manager Jim Crawford was full of praise for his players after a strong second-half performance helped them to a 2-1 win over Wales this afternoon.

Preparations for the European Championship qualifying campaign began for a largely new group of players with a friendly against the Welsh at Colliers Park in Wrexham.

The home side took an early lead through Brentford’s Joe Adams. However, Ireland were ultimately victorious thanks to two goals that were scored in the space of a minute.

Dundee’s on-loan Celtic striker Jonathan Afolabi levelled the game in the 76th minute, before the visitors went ahead through a bizarre Morgan Boyes own goal.

“We went in at half-time a goal down and you’re repairing a couple of things that weren’t great in the first half,” said Crawford, who took the U21 reins from Stephen Kenny last year.

“I thought we were really good in the second half, with a lot of good, positive play. The players were still brave enough to get on the ball when they were a goal down.

“We scored a decent goal to equalise and then it was a fortunate second goal, but you’ll take them. Other than that, the performance was really about seeing what the players could do at this level.

“There were a lot of positive performances out there today. I’m just delighted. The victory builds confidence and it builds morale. The lads are extremely happy with the performance and so they should be. They should be proud and it sets us up nicely for the June window.”

jim-crawford Crawford issues instructions at Colliers Park. Source: Andrew Dowling/INPHO

Crawford included seven debutants in his starting line-up, with Afolabi, Will Ferry, Lee O’Connor and Mark McGuinness the only players in the side to have featured previously at this level.

After three more were introduced from the bench, a total of 10 newcomers featured in today’s game: Brian Maher, Andrew Omobamidele, Mason O’Malley, Luca Connell, Conor Noss, Louie Watson, Alex Gilbert, Tyreik Wright (sub), Conor Grant (sub) and Ethon Varian (sub).

Ireland’s bid to qualify for the 2023 Euros, a tournament that will be co-hosted by Romania and Georgia, will begin with away games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Luxembourg in September.

However, it’s hoped that the squad will have another run-out in June, with Crawford keen for his side to compete at the Toulon Tournament.

He said of his team after today’s game: “They’re a new group and probably for the first 25 minutes you could tell that they’re a new group. They’re finding their feet at this level, but then we got control of the game and there was a lot of positive stuff.

“It’s very pleasing, there’s lots to work on and I’m just delighted for the staff and the players.”

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Paul Dollery

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