Republic of Ireland U21 2 Luxembourg U21 0
Republic of Ireland under-21 captain Conor Coventry said his side are in a good place as a consequence of their 2-0 win over Luxembourg in Group F of the European Championship qualifiers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
Supplementing a first-half finish from Joshua Kayode, Coventry converted a 64th-minute penalty to give the hosts all three points and thus extend their unbeaten start to the campaign.
While Luxembourg are rooted to the bottom of the group table, the influential midfielder insisted it was a victory to savour.
“I think people kind of overlook these teams sometimes, but they’re really tough to play against. Especially the longer the games goes on and it’s tight. They’re a good side. A win at this level is important. It doesn’t matter how,” Coventry acknowledged after the game.
“The group is in a great place. Everyone is dying to get in every camp. Everyone loves to be here. We’re such a tight-knit group off the pitch and I think it shows on the pitch. We’re really improving on the pitch as well. I think we’re in a good place.”
Ireland head coach Jim Crawford’s selection for this game showed four changes from the one that drew 1-1 with Luxembourg in Dudelange last month.
In defence, Cardiff City's Mark McGuinness took the place of Oisín McEntee. Ross Tierney deputised for Bohemians team-mate Dawson Devoy further up the field, while Kayode and Liam Kerrigan took over from Will Ferry and Evan Ferguson respectively.
In the first under-21 international to be played in front of a crowd on these shores since November 2019 – when senior boss Stephen Kenny was still in charge – Ireland were hoping to establish an early platform.
They got their wish on 18 minutes, when the visiting team’s defence was unlocked in clinical fashion. From an elaborate crossfield pass by Coventry, Tyreik Wright was released down the left wing.
The Cork native subsequently delivered an enticing cross into the area, where Kayode was on hand to flick home at an acute angle. This was the Rotherham United attacker’s second goal at this grade, following a previous strike against Luxembourg in a Euro 2021 qualifier last November.
This proved to be the only shot on target in the opening period, but was enough to keep Ireland in the ascendancy at the interval.
The visitors bounced back from a similar deficit a little over four weeks earlier and this motivated Ireland to search for a second goal on the resumption. Kerrigan almost got on the end of a Wright through-ball in the 47th-minute, but Luxembourg netminder Lucas Fox was alert to the danger.
The lively Kerrigan also fired off-target from a Joel Bagan delivery, before Ireland finally doubled their advantage just past the hour mark. Currently plying his trade in the second-tier of Irish soccer with UCD, Kerrigan was upended in the area by opposition defender Franz Sinner at the end of a lung-bursting run.
Given Wright had been denied by Fox from the spot in Dudelange, it was decided that Coventry would be the one entrusted with penalty duties on this occasion. He made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Fox the wrong way to leave Ireland on the brink of a much-needed win.
The busy Fox thwarted Conor Noss in the closing minutes of the game, but the final outcome had been placed beyond doubt by this point. Thanks to this result, the Republic are now three points clear of Montenegro (with two games in hand) ahead of their meeting in Podgorica on Tuesday.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Maher; O'Connor, O'Brien, McGuinness, Bagan; Kilkenny (Devoy, 87 mins), Coventry, Tierney (Noss, 70 mins); Kerrigan (Gilbert, 87 mins), Kayode (Ferguson, 69 mins), Wright (Moran, 93 mins).
LUXEMBOURG: Fox; Bernardy (Torres, 65 mins), D'Anzico, Osmanovic, Sinner (Bernard, 76 mins), Schmit; Olesen, Latic, Sacras (De Oliveira, 76 mins); Rossler (Turping, 65 mins), Kuete (Erkus, 90 mins).
Referee: B Kasumi (Kosovo).