Ireland near promised land
The Republic of Ireland under-16 European Champions completed a quite remarkable year on Thursday afternoon when a win over hosts Israel put them in pole position to win the six-nation invitational under-17 tournament.
It meant that this team went unbeaten in the 12 games they played last year which, of course, culminated in their winning the UEFA Under-16 Championship in Scotland in May.
If they can beat Hungary, whom they meet in their penultimate match this afternoon, they will have all but won this tournament ahead of tomorrow's final game with Yugoslavia.
A superb individual goal from midfielder Gary Dempsey was the highlight of Thursday's win in Netanya.
Dempsey's breathtaking goal completed Ireland's recovery, after they fell a goal behind and later had Dessie Byrne sent-off for a second bookable offence.
The Everton-based Dubliner collected a pass from skipper Shaun Byrne before beating five defenders and shooting low past Israeli goalkeeper Dudi Zvili from the edge of the box for a stunning winning goal after 60 minutes.
Israel, who led the group on goal difference going into the match, impressed early on and they went ahead after 33 minutes when Yaniv Katan set up Shi Abuksis to finish from close range.
Ireland got back into the match at a crucial stage a minute before half-time. Dave Warren skipped up the right wing to cross and David McMahon was on hand to head home to keep up his record of scoring in each match so far.
Byrne was then unlucky to be sent-off 10 minutes into the second-half for a second yellow card offence.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Murphy (Tranmere Rovers); Thompson (Nottingham Forest), Goodwin (Celtic), McCrystal (Leeds United), D Byrne (Stockport County); Warren (Mayfield United), Miller (Celtic), Dempsey (Everton), S Byrne (West Ham United); Kelly (Belvedere), McMahon (Newcastle United). Subs: Butler (Sunderland) for Kelly (48 mins), Forsyth (Blackburn Rovers) for Warren (62 mins).