Scotland Schoolboys’ second match in the inspiresport Centenary Shield ended in a 2-1 defeat to Republic of Ireland at Whitehill Stadium in Dublin.
An early deflected strike from Che Reilly in the 23rd minute gave the Young Scots anearly lead, before the Irish quickly struck back with Lennon Gill capitalising on a mistake in the Scottish box, stroking the ball home from close range to bring the boys from the Emerald Isle back into the game. Republic of Ireland then took the lead early in the second half, with determined play by Gill down the left, squaring for Raggett who delightfully spun his marker and smashed the ball home into the bottom right corner of the Scottish goal.
The Irish began the game at break neck speed, adopting a 3-5-2 system with high wing backs pushed on up the park, penning Scotland in deep in their own half looking to break into an early lead. It was easy to see that the management team have drilled their boys well into starting at a frantic pace, and looking to exploit the space in behind the Scottish full backs when the opportunity presented itself. Much like the opening game against the boys from the North, Scotland looked to get to grips with the pace of the game early on before growing and imposing themselves on the game, which led to a few scary moments for the back four.
Kieran Cruise, starting left wing back for Northern Ireland was beginning to dictate the game, stretching Scotland’s defence into wide areas, added to that a wonderful left foot and brilliant turn of pace, he began to cause problems early on for the Scots backline – differing from looking to receive the ball in deep areas and send in an early cross, or to look commit players and drive to the byline before searching for a cutback.
The first chance of the game came from a great cross field ball by O’Brien to Cruise on the left who delivered into the box for Lennon Gill who looked to get a volley off early, but was to be outdone by some brave and strong defending from John Binnie who was on his toes to meet the ball for what would have been a goal had he not intervened.
Binnie again spared Scottish blushes as he produced a goal-line clearance from another well worked Irish chance. McCullagh received the recycled corner on the right hand side, cutting in on his favoured left foot, delivering the ball deep to the back post, where Cruise meet the ball flush on his forehead sending it across goal, half running away seeing his names in the lights – but it was to be met by Binnie on the line, saving the day for Scotland once more clearing the ball to safety.
Scotland on a rare foray forward worked a smart set piece, about 40 yards from goal on the left hand side, working the ball out to Matthew Strachan – playing at left back this week as opposed to centre half vs Northern Ireland – who drove into the box to the touchline, attempting to find Stenhouse in the area, only for the ball to be diverted via Cruise’s right arm for a corner. The referee on the night didn’t see enough in it to award Scotland the penalty, much to the boys in Blue’s dismay.
Scotland then took the lead on the 23rd minute, a headed clearance found its way to Che Reilly in space in the middle of the park, with yards opening up in front of him, he strode into space. Noticing Byrne off his line, Reilly decided to take the shot on early from 25 yards, taking a nick off one of the Irish centre halves, wrong footing the keeper, rolling into the empty net.
Scotland appeared to kick into gear with the exuberance of going a goal ahead, looking to hound and harry Ireland at every opportunity. A quickness of play and desire to move further up the park had the young Scots looking more likely to double their lead than to concede.
However, the Scots were to be undone by some quick thinking by the Irish. O’Donovan took the ball from his defensive colleague and drove into the middle of the park, sliding a perfectly weighted ball in between the Burns and Steel on the right of the Scottish defence – the fleet-footed McCullagh battled hard and stretched to get the ball into the box as it met the byline, Binnie attempted to intercept as the ball came across his goal, however Gill was on-hand to collect the ball and slot home past Russell from close range.
Scotland had begun to grow visibly frustrated with the Irish dominance, picking up a few yellow cards and sloppy fouls in contempt with the Ireland equaliser. This lead to some great combination play from the two strikers on the night, Raggett and Gill, with Raggett breaking into the right-hand side of the box ready to strike, before a rash challenge from Lewis Gibson brought him down leaving the referee with only one decision to make. Penalty Ireland. Raggett collected the ball for himself, typifying the confident striker he had shown to be on the night, stepped up and sent the ball to the right of Russell, however it was a comfortable height for Russell to palm round the post for a corner.
Into the second half and Scotland made two changes to assert some dominance in the game, changing from their favoured 4-2-3-1 system, to a 4-4-1-1 system, looking to combat Ireland’s dangerous play on the wings, and attempt to draw the three centre halves higher up the field in which to exploit diagonal runs from their wingers into the open space in behind.
Much to Scotland’s efforts, it didn’t seem to have the desired effect as Ireland soon took the lead early in the second half. A run by Lennon Gill on the left handside looked as if it was going to result in a goal kick for Scotland, but the young man showed great determination to retain possession, a deft touch to keep the ball in play and great presence of mind to square to Michael Raggett who spun his marker beautifully before lashing the ball into the bottom right corner of Liam Russell’s net.
Scotland, in a bid to manoeuvre a route back into the match once again changed their system with the introduction of Ben Lamont, going to a 4-3-3 with Lamont playing off the striker in the hole. However, by this time the Scots had been limited to hopeful strikes from range, with the Irish showing a strong understanding of game management at such a young age to control the pace of the game, standing firm with their 1 goal lead and keeping the Scottish attack at bay.
Craig Johnston on the sidelines made one final roll of the dice as the game drew to a close, with the Scots going more direct and looking to pick up on second balls to snatch a point from the game, and came close right at the death as a deep free-kick delivered from Russell just in front of the halfway line dropped to Jonathan Steel just to the left of the penalty spot, driving a fierce left-footed volley towards goal, only to see it blocked by Ireland captain Tadgh Walsh – with the referee blowing up for full-time as the attack subsided.
The Scots may have felt aggrieved on the night with only 3 minutes of added time being granted by the officials with 10 substitutions having taken place on the night, as well as some lengthy delays for injuries. Nonetheless, a well-drilled, talented Irish side proved too strong for Scotland on the night.
Player of the Match – Scotland – Liam Russell
The young keeper at Queens Park continued to show himself to be a worthy Scotland goalkeeper, a commanding presence behind his defence, making difficult saves look easy, and not scared in putting himself in where it hurts. Although the defeat may leave a sour taste in the mouth, Russell enhanced on his reputation after a glowing performance versus Northern Ireland.
Player of the Match – Northern Ireland – Kieran Cruise
Cruise showed to be a class above on the night. The Dundalk graduate already with a professional appearance in the Irish League to his name was tireless in his effort, running himself into the ground, covering every blade of grass before being taken off late on with cramp. He showed strong game intelligence in the alternation of his runs to keep his direct opponent guessing, a fabulous left foot with great delivery from all areas, and a positivity and desire to drive his team up the park. All-in-all, a wonderful performance from the young man on the night.
Republic of Ireland
- Reece Byrne
- Michael Keyes
- John O’Donovan
- Eanna Clancy
- Charlie O’Brien
- Tadhg Walsh (C)
- Michael McCullagh
- Steven Healy
- Lennon Gill
- Michael Raggett
- Kieran Cruise
- Oisin Coleman
- Alex Healy-Byrne
- Darragh Reilly
- Leon Ayinde
- Jack Ross
- Zach Dunne
- David Tarmey
- Liam Russell
- Gavin Hamilton
- Jay Burns
- John Binnie
- Matthew Strachan
- Brodie Watt
- Kenneth MacInness (C)
- Rayan Mohammad
- Ben Lamont
- Lewis Gibson
- Scott Cowie
- Bailey Klimionek
- Lewis Lorimer
- Che Reilly
- Oliver Brander
- Lucas Stenhouse
- Michael Beasley
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