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Ireland under-21s held to stalemate by Norway

Martin O’Neill was in Tallaght to check out any potential talent in the ranks

Ireland’s Reece Grego-Cox with Sondre Rossbach of Norway. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Ireland 0 Norway 0

Martin O’Neill may well have spotted a few potential gems watching the Republic of Ireland Under-21s hold Norway scoreless last night.

The surprise news of the Derryman agreeing to a contract extension earlier in the day added an incentive for these hopefuls to showcase their talent and a couple of tyros took full advantage at Tallaght Stadium.

After starting their Euro 2019 campaign with back-to-back victories over Kosovo and Azerbaijan, Ireland manager Noel King named an unchanged team, with West Ham United duo Declan Rice and Josh Cullen harnessing the midfield.

Rice may be the star turn at present for breaking into the Hammers side but his fellow Londoner Cullen, on loan at Bolton Wanderers, displayed his worth to the Irish cause by playing a captain’s part with a number of crucial interceptions. He deservedly picked up the man-of-the-match award.

On the stroke of half-time, with Morten Thorsby poised to pull the trigger from ten yards out, Cullen produced a perfectly-timed tackle to deny the Heerenveen midfielder.

Another Norwegian player currently on loan with the Dutch club presented the biggest threat to Ireland.

Martin Odegaard hit the headlines almost three years ago when Real Madrid shelled out €4m for the 15-year-old and he’s earned nine full caps along the way.

Still only 18, he’s rejoined the Under-21s for this campaign and already provided a goal, albeit in their shock 3-2 defeat to Kosovo.

In Dublin, he was at the centre at the action but he met his match in the form of Ireland goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara.

The Manchester United stopper spent Tuesday training with the senior squad and the O’Neill and his goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh couldn’t have been anything but impressed with couple of saves he made to keep the tie scoreless at the break.

It was a different story after the break as the Irish upped the tempo and were left ruing a couple of late wasted chances.

QPR striker Reece Grego-Cox somehow stabbed wide with 10 minutes left after goalkeeper Sondre Rossbach parried Danny Kane’s shot straight into path.

His clubmate Ryan Manning had also came close to preserving Ireland’s 100 per cent record five minutes later when his free-kick forced Rossbach into a one-handed save.

IRELAND: K O’Hara (Manchester United); C Whelan (Liverpool), R Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), S Donnellan (Walsall), D Kane (Huddersfield Town); D Rice (West Ham), J Cullen (Bolton Wanderers); H Charsley (Everton), R Manning (QPR), R Curtis (Derry City); R Greco-Cox (QPR).

Sub: C Ronan (Wolves) for Manning (89 mins).

NORWAY: S Rossbach; A Hanche-Olsen, K Ajer, U Jenssen; J Ryerson, M Normann (D Torset-Johnsen 6, inj - S Svendsen 78), I Fossum; B Risa, M Thorsby, M Odegaard; H Bjordal.

Referee: L Godinho (Por).