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'That result is for the grassroots and academy coaches at home'

Jim Crawford, Tyreik Wright and Ross Tierney react to Ireland’s superb win away to Sweden.

Ireland's Tyreik Wright celebrates scoring his side's second goal with teammates.
Ireland's Tyreik Wright celebrates scoring his side's second goal with teammates.
Image: Johan Volkanen/INPHO

IRELAND U21S BOSS Jim Crawford paid tribute to players and staff after an impressive 2-0 win away to Sweden on Tuesday.

The victory represents a major boost to the team’s qualification hopes, as it takes them to within a point of second-place Sweden in the group with a game in hand.

“It was a fantastic performance to a man,” Crawford said afterwards. “We worked on a different shape and it’s a credit to the players that were involved, they took onboard the information that was given to them in every aspect of the game, the defending, the attacking, the transitions, they were excellent.

“I’ve already said it’s not really about the 11 anymore, it’s about the impact of players coming off the bench, the impact of those players who are in and around the group as well throughout the week. They’re probably thinking ‘I won’t start’ but everybody plays a part in this.

“That result is for the grassroots and academy coaches at home because you can’t help but be extremely proud of that performance.”

It was two substitutes who all but confirmed the victory, as Tyreik Wright got on the end of JJ Kayode’s flick-on, before finishing well at the second attempt after the first effort was saved.

“You always feel happy and satisfied that it pays off. Ollie O’Neill, who started the game, for somebody so young in such a big game, was outstanding. We just thought he was getting a little bit tired and Tyreik, everybody knows what he brings to a game in terms of pace, discipline and for him to score again, I was absolutely over the moon.”

Ross Tierney had put Ireland ahead after just 12 minutes with a sweetly struck effort and Crawford also paid tribute to the Motherwell youngster.

“It’s a conversation I’ve had with Rossie all week about how he gets into the box, how clinical he can be, and that chance against Italy, I would have put my house on it because he’s a fantastic finisher, but it was no surprise to me that he stuck that one home because you’ve seen it all week, he can score goals in training for fun and Rossie was fantastic today.”

“It was a decent finish,” said Tierney. “It came to me and I just tried to make a good connection and thankfully it went in.

“It came early on. Obviously, we changed formation, it took a little bit of time to adapt but the lads at the back were unbelievable, kept a clean sheet and the goal maybe took a little bit of pressure off where we don’t have to chase the game.”

“I feel over the moon,” added Wright. “I made sure I was ready when called upon. Obviously disappointed not to be starting, but you’ve got to make sure you’re ready in these situations and I was. I was thinking first to dink him and then I’ve got to try to get it under control. I went with my right foot, a poor shot to be honest, but then the ‘keeper did me a favour and knocked it back to me, and I stuck the second chance away thankfully. 

“This is a special group that we’ve got here and we’re looking to make history. These special moments mean a lot to us. We’ve got three games left and hopefully, we get the job done.”

Ireland’s group campaign concludes in June. They face a double-header at home against Bosnia and Montenegro, before ending with a trip to Italy. 

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Winning all three of these fixtures would be enough to guarantee second place and a play-off spot at the very least.

And Crawford called on fans to come out in numbers at Tallaght as the Irish U21s team bid to make history by qualifying for a first-ever major tournament.

“It’s back in our hands. We’ve one window left, three games left, two of them are at home. So wherever we play in Ireland, we just need fans to get behind us, get in the stadium and cheer on these players because again, they deserve it. They’re a fantastic group of players, they love playing for their country and it was unfortunate this week that we missed out with Evan Ferguson, Will Smallbone and Festy [Ebosele], but you’ve got to be happy with the players that are coming through on this conveyor belt, that’s for sure.”

This week on the Front Row – The42’s new rugby podcast in partnership with Guinness – panellist Eimear Considine makes a welcome return… and she’s brought her Ireland roommate, Hannah O’Connor, along too. They chat about broken noses, tanning routines, initiation songs and balancing the Women’s Six Nations with teaching, plus how one fan named her child after Ireland winger Beibhinn Parsons! Click here to subscribe or listen below:


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