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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020

QPR starlet on target as Ireland U21s get campaign off to winning start

The only goal of the game in Tallaght Stadium was a scrappy finish by Olamide Shodipo.

THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND got their European U21 Championship qualifying campaign off to the best possible start with a win over Kosovo at Tallaght Stadium this afternoon.

The only goal of the game came from Olamide Shodipo, whose scrappy finish came 10 minutes after the break to give Ireland the win they just about deserved over a Kosovan side that were playing in their first-ever competitive fixture at U21 level.

Ireland dominated possession for long periods and almost paid the price for not finding a second as Mendurim Hoti hit the post twice in the second half.

Manchester United goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara made his international debut for Ireland ahead of Liam Bossin while Ronan Curtis also won his first cap as he spear-headed the Irish attack.

Ryan Manning was named in the starting line-up too after impressing for QPR in recent weeks and the midfielder looked most likely to make something happen for the hosts.

The first real effort came midway through the opening period after intricate passing in the box involving Manning led to Connor Dimaio getting the space to attempt a chip into the top corner, but his effort dipped just over.

Moments later, Curtis saw his shot saved by Visar Beka when one-on-one with the Kosovo ‘keeper who dove on the rebound to deny the Derry City striker tapping into an empty net.

Dimaio had another shot from distance on the stroke of half-time but he curled wide as Ireland couldn’t make their dominance pay before the break.

Noel King’s side remained on the front foot after the resumption though and the breakthrough finally came on 55 minutes. Manning floated a corner to Dimaio on the edge of the area with his shot deflecting through to Shaun Donnellan, whose toe poke was parried by Beka to Shodipo, who scrambled the ball over the line.

Hoti then almost equalised within two minutes of the opener as his rasping effort from distance hit the woodwork.

Reece Grego-Cox replaced Manning and only moments after coming on he seized on a mistake by Yiber Maloku to go clean through on goal, with Beka getting a vital hand to the ball to turn it just around the post.

Kosovo were unlucky not to find a leveller late on when Florent Hasani’s cross was met by Hoti, but the post denied him once again as his flicked effort beat O’Hara only for Ryan Sweeney to make a last-ditch intervention and hack off the line.

IRELAND: Kieran O’Hara; Corey Whelan, Ryan Sweeney, Shaun Donnellan, Danny Kane; Conor Dimaio, Josh Cullen; Harry Charsley, Ryan Manning (Reece Grego-Cox, 67), Olamide Shodipo; Ronan Curtis.

KOSOVO: Visar Beka; Drillon Tejeci, Arian Kabashi, Rron Statovci, Florent Hasani; Yiber Maloku, Ardit Gashi; Medurim Hoti, Ron Broja, Engjell Hoti (Albert Dabiqaj, 53); Leonard Pilana (Alamir Ajzeri, 68).

Referee: Peter Kjaesgaard-Andersen

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