08.05.1998 at 19:00 McDiarmid Park , Perth
1 - 2
Ireland Under 16
Referee: Michael Thomas Mc Curry
Europen Cup Final / PROG-match
Samuele Dalla Bona (c),
Brendan Mc Gill
David Mc Mahon
Mateo Tacchini for Zacardo 41 mins;
David Sinigaglia for Papa 61 mins;
Giuseppe Sculli for Pelanti 71 mins;
European Cup Final
Rep of Ireland 2 Italy 1
Magnificient Ireland were crowned European Youth champions for the first time amid joyous scenes here last night.
Brian Kerr's super-kids defied all the odds to come of age against Italy at McDiarmid Park in Perth on a night of joyous celebration for the Irish players and management team.
Goals from full-back Keith Foy from a magnificent free kick and a tap-in for David McMahon gave the Irish a remarkable victory and set the scene of a right Highland fling in bonny Scotland.
After winning bronze medals at the World U-20 finals in Malaysia last summer and a fourth place finish in the Euro U-18 finals in Iceland, Kerr achieved the ultimate prize last night after a splendid tournament here.
Ireland were back to their tried and trusted formation with David McMahon back after suspension leading the attack and while they had the better of the opening passages of play it was Italy who gradually became the dominant force in the opening half.
Still they had to wait until the 30th minute to win their first corner kick of the night as both sides teased and tested one another as they searched for that opening goal.
Ireland's sharp passing game was not as crisp or as precise as it had been in previous matches and many of their intended passes found opponents in white shirts instead.
Italy were the first team in the competition to test unbeaten goalkeeper Joe Murphy as well as he saved Gaetano D'Agostino's 19th minute free kick after a handball by Jim Goodwin outside the box.
Mid-way through, the Irish almost found that elusive opening when Liam Miller picked out Shaun Byrne and his low angled drive looked to be creeping past Italy's Andrea Posocco only for the long-haired Italian to gather it in to him at the last second.
Italy were twice close in the 27th and 28th minutes of a tense, closely fought first half when Italian hot-shot Samuele Dalla Bona had sight of goal but Murphy blocked down his shot which proved to be too hot to handle for the Tranmere Rovers star.
That was Italy's best chance of the half but they were close again when D'Agostini was picked out by Dalla Bona but, off balance, he shot well wide.
And then it happened !
Five minutes before half-time and Ireland were awarded a free kick after Brendan McGill was impeded on the edge of the box by full-back Riccardo Pagliuchi.
Up stepped left-back Keith Foy to fire a bullet-like, left-footed drive curling into the far top corner of Posocco's net as the Italians stood around and looked at one another in amazement. Newcastle United's David McMahon peeled away from the defensive wall to give free-taker Foy, also the side's spot-kick exponent, a chink of light and he buried it.
Ireland gained in confidence from their lead goal and Shaun Byrne was close to a second after 39 minutes when he shot over from Dave McMahon's lay-off as the majority Irish support in a crowd of close on 2,500 certainly made themselves heard in the well-appointed home of St. Johnstone FC.
Italy's frustrations at being behind for the first time in the tournament surfaced when midfielder Agazzone was yellow carded for a rash foul on Andy Reid early in the second half.
Serious questions were asked of Ireland as well though when they conceded their first goal of the series and a soft one it was too.
The Italians were back in the ball game at 1-1 after 52 minutes when Pagliuchi, who fouled McGill for Ireland's goal, fed midfielder Simone Pelanti inside the box and he scored with a deft side-foot finish that gave Murphy no chance.
Full-back John Thompson was booked for dissent before the Irish regained the lead with another goal of stunning proportions.
This time Andy Reid, the baby of the team, skipped past two despairing tackles after being fed by Graham Barrett's probing ball down the wing.
He dragged the ball past the sprawling Posocco in the Italian goal for Dave McMahon to run in and side-foot the ball to an empty net.
Again it was the signal for the Irish fans to get to their feet as they and the players celebrated for the second time in the match. It was not to be the last time the Irish fans rose in unison to their feet for at the final whistle the party really began in earnest.
Ireland's Des Casey from Dundalk, the chairman of the UEFA Youths committee made the trophy and gold medal presentations to Irish skipper, Shaun Byrne and his jolly crew at the end of what had been another wonderful night for Irish football.
Roll on Greece on Thursday and Cyprus in July — Kerr's Kids are on a roll.
IRELAND - Murphy (Tranmere Rovers); Thompson (Home Farm FC), Goodwin (Celtic), O'Shea (Waterford Bohemians), Foy (Notts. Forest); McGill (Rivervalley Rangers), S. Byrne (West Ham United), Miller (Celtic), Reid (Notts. Forest); Barrett (Arsenal), McMahon (Newcastle United).
ITALY - Posocco (AC Milan); Zaccardo (Bologna), Lazzeri (Torino), Lanzaro (AS Roma), Pagliuchi (Torino), Pelanti (Fiorentina), Agazzone (AC Milan), Dalla Bona (Atlanta), Donati (Atlanta), D'Agostino (AS Roma), Papa (Juventus). Subs. Tacchini (Brescia) for Zaccardo (half-time), Sinigaglia (Inter-Milan) for Papa (62 mins), Sculli (Juventus) for Pelanti (72 mins).
Referee: Mike McCurry (Scotland).
The nation has some new, and very young, sporting heroes to acclaim today after the Irish under-16 soccer team achieved the unexpected and were crowned champions of Europe in Scotland last night.
Kerr's Kids came of age to beat favourites and former champions Italy 2-1 at McDiarmid Park, Perth, as goals from Nottingham Forest's Keith Foy and Newcastle's David McMahon gave the Irish good reason for a Highland fling.
It proved to be third time lucky for the Irish who were last in the Euro semi-finals back in 1985.
Last night there was to be no mistake and even though the Italians fought back to equalise at 1-1 early in the second half the Irish dug deep to conjure up a match-winning goal just three minutes later.
The Irish players and management team fly back into Dublin at lunch-time today where they will be accorded an FAI reception at the Forte Posthouse hotel at Dublin airport and they will also be guests of honour at the Ireland-Mexico friendly at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, May 23.
"We've come from nowhere two weeks ago to be crowned European champions tonight. It's one of the proudest moments of my entire football career," said coach Brian Kerr.
FAI President Pat Quigley
and Chief Executive Bernard O'Byrne were both full of praise for the Irish team's achievements.
"It's a great honour for Irish football to have a team like this crowned European champions. They fully deserve it and this will certainly enhance our reputation world-wide," said Pat Quigley.
Sports Minister Dr. Jim McDaid has also promised the team a Government reception in Dublin at a time convenient to both sides.
It was a thrilling final, the first European decider contested by an Irish team at any level. The youngsters, who had already knocked out reigning champions Spain, grabbed a deserved lead in the first half when Foy bent a stunning 20-yard free-kick into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Italy equalised early in the second half, but Ireland, backed by a noisy crowd of Irish supporters proudly displaying their Tricolours, were far from down-hearted and David McMahon put Ireland back in front.
The young boys in green bravely clung to their lead and, as the final whistle blew, coach Kerr and the rest of the squad raced on to the field to join the celebrations.
The 1997/98 UEFA European Under-16 Championship produced a remarkable result as the Republic of Ireland claimed the trophy for the first time, part of an unprecedented double success as the U18 team also triumphed in their own European finals the same season.
At the 16-team final tournament in Scotland, Ireland faced one of the toughest draws possible as they were paired with four-time winners Spain in Group C. Brian Kerr's side opened their campaign with a goalless draw against the hosts, before defeating Finland 2-0 and overcoming the Spanish by a single goal on the final matchday to claim first position. Spain squeezed through in second place on four points, one more than the Finns, to leave Scotland bringing up the rear with two.
In Group A, Greece also led the way with seven points, two more than Denmark – who also qualified for the quarter-finals unbeaten – with Sweden and Iceland in third and fourth place respectively. Italy and Portugal made relatively serene progress from Group B after playing out a 1-1 draw in the opening round of matches; both went on to defeat Norway and Liechtenstein, who finished third and fourth in the final standings. The fourth section was the tightest of all, with Israel holding off Croatia and Ukraine to win the section with five points, one above both of their rivals. The Croatians pipped Ukraine to the runners-up berth thanks to a 2-0 victory in the game between the two sides, leaving Russia lagging behind in fourth place.
Dalla Bona decisive
Three of the four quarter-finals were tight affairs, the exception being the meeting of Israel and Portugal in Inverness, Miguel Barros' double helping the Portuguese to a solid 4-1 success. Elsewhere Samuele Dalla Bona got what proved to be the winner in Italy's 2-1 win against Croatia, while Spain came from behind to defeat Greece 2-1 and Ireland overcame the Danes 2-0.
Ireland won their last-four meeting with Portugal by an identical margin thanks to two second-half goals from Shaun Byrne in Motherwell and Spain's hold on the trophy was ended by the Italians, for whom Dalla Bona once again struck the decisive goal in another 2-1 win. The Spanish did have the consolation of a win against Portugal in the third-placed play-off, however, recovering from conceding in the second minute to run out 2-1 victors.
In the final at McDiarmid Park in Perth, Ireland struck first with Keith Foy breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute. Italy responded through Simone Pelanti seven minutes into the second period, but parity proved short-lived as David McMahon restored Ireland's lead five minutes later - a goal that proved sufficient to take the trophy. The four semi-finalists went to South Africa the next February for the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup, and while Ireland and Italy fell in the group stage, Spain beat Portugal in the semi-finals and then Ghana 2-1 to win the trophy.