Ireland secure a draw


IN physical terms, this was very much a case of boys against men, but somewhere along the way Ireland made up the difference in this Esso Under-18 Schoolboys' international at Belfield last night.

The Australians' intentions were clear right from the start as they were determined to bully the lighter Irish boys. But they were made to rethink their strategy after Ireland snatched a seventh minute lead.

An innocuous looking cross from Ronnie O'Brien was needlessly handled by Jason Vukadin. The Australians were stunned by the referee's decision to award a penalty, as were many in the crowd.

Nonetheless, referee Paddy Dempsey remained steadfast and Irish captain Brian Burke sent goalkeeper Damien Beattie the wrong way.

Thereafter, the Australians came forward menacingly. A rash challenge by Ireland's right back Paul Fitzgerald earned him a booking in the 19th minute.

Kain Rastall promptly delivered the free kick that tempted goalkeeper James O'Connor from his line. Vukadin got to the ball before O'Connor and when it broke Zoran Mliner's shot was deflected over.

Minutes later an Adam Cimino pass caught the Irish defence in neutral and it needed a precise tackle from Burke to deny Aaron Westerveldt a goal-scoring opportunity.

However, the equaliser was inevitable and 58 minutes in Ilija Prenzoski, who seemed to be at the heart of Australia's more incisive movements, delivered a vicious free kick and Damon Collina's far post header flew to the net.