Sean McCaffrey's Irish U19 team defeated Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0 in their final European Championship qualifier courtesy of a Conor Clifford penalty in Kiev on Monday.
However that victory was not enough to secure qualification to this summer's finals in France as England sealed their place in the eight team finals with a 1-1 draw with Ukraine at the Borodinka venue in Kiev. Chelsea midfielder, Conor Clifford scored the only goal from the spot after 68 minutes- his second in as many matches as Ireland claimed second spot in group 3 ahead of European champions, Ukraine.
In a one-sided encounter, it was Ireland who created most of the scoring opportunities throughout the game as they looked to build on their goal difference which they hoped would help their qualification hopes had Ukraine defeated England 1-0.
Daniel Kearns had the games first real opportunity after 11 minutes when he skipped away from his marker on the right wing and his shot from the outside of his right-foot flashed agonisingly across the face of goal. Three minutes later, Conor Henderson tested their opponents keeper, Tino Divkovic with a stunning free-kick from 25 yards which the keeper tipped wide for a corner.
Mervue United keeper, Ger Hanley was called into action in the 15th minute when midfielder, Zlomislić powered a free-kick towards goal but the Galway man was on-hand to avert the danger. Galway United striker, Karl Sheppard had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the 24th minute when Conor Henderson cleverly chipped the ball over the defence which allowed Sheppard through one-on-one with Divkovic who raced off his line and blocked the powerful shot from point-blank range.
A minute later, Bosnia & Herzegovina striker, Pandza found himself in space inside the Irish box and with the goal at his mercy, he scuffed his shot and the ball dribbled wide of Hanley's post.
Arsenal's Conor Henderson had another opportunity to break the deadlock just before the break when his 25 yard shot was just off-target as Divkovic scrambled to cover his angles. Bosnia & Herzegovina defender, Alić was dismissed by the referee in the 44th minute when he performed a two-footed lunge on Irish midfielder, Daniel Kearns. The referee made no hesitation and gave the defender a straight red for dangerous play.
Ireland started the second half with the same vigor that they finished the first period. Chelsea's Conor Clifford had two remarkable long-range efforts within minutes of eachother as he struck the crossbar after 56 minutes from over 20 yards and two minutes later he had a similar effort which went just to the left and wide.
As Ireland pushed forward in numbers, it gave Bosnia & Herzegovina a number of opportunities to attack on the break and amazingly, striker, Pandza was guilty of missing another glorious chance as he fluffed his lines in front of Ireland's goal with just Ger Hanley to beat.
Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper, Divkovic was being kept busy by the attacking Irish and he pulled-off two remarkable saves, first from substitute Harry Crawford and then from Karl Sheppard who found space inside the box but the keeper was on-hand to scramble the ball clear and keep the game scoreless.
Ireland made the breakthrough in the 67th minute when Sunderland's Conor Hourihane won his side a penalty when he made a darting run into the opponents box and he was cynically hauled down by defender, Hadžić. Conor Clifford scored his second penalty in as many matches as he calmly put the ball to the keepers left to give Ireland the lead.
Ireland were unable to build on their lead in the final quarter of the game due to the stubbornness of the Bosnia & Herzegovina defence. Substitute, Ronan Murray looked very lively after his introduction after 69 minutes and he had an opportunity to score with ten minutes remaining but his shot was blocked by an on-rushing defender. From the resulting corner, Irish defender, John Dunleavy came agonisingly close when he headed over from three yards as he out-stretched his marker to get his head to the ball.
Republic of Ireland: Ger Hanley, Richard Towell, John Dunleavy, Sean McGinty, Shane McEleney, Conor Hourihane, Conor Clifford, Conor Henderson, Daniel Kearns, Shaun Timmins, Karl Sheppard.
Substitutes: Ian McLoughlin, Ronan Murray (on for Karl Sheppard,69 mins) , Stephen McDonnell, Andrew Boyle, Harrison Crawford (on for Daniel Kearns, 46 mins), James Keohane (on for Shaun Timmins, 33mins).