Bosun Lawal’s timing was as perfect as his run and touch as he chose the friendly with Ukraine to score his first goal at Under-21 international level and level the game for Jim Crawford’s side with a sublime finish eight minutes from time in Blumau, Austria.
17th Jun 2023
With Andrew Moran also levelling for Ireland with the last touch of the first half, Lawal’s goal ensured this new Under-21 grouping remain unbeaten as they followed the March win against Iceland in Cork with a share of the spoils in Austria.
As he looks to the start of the European Championship qualifiers and a home game against Turkey in September, Ireland Under-21 Head Coach Crawford handed first starts at this level to defender James Abankwah, winger Armstrong Oko-Flex and striker Conor Carty at the compact Union-Sport Club in Blumau.
A member of the Irish team that lost the Euro play-off on penalties to Israel last autumn, Joe Hodge again captained the side and presented his Ukrainian counterpart Artem Bondarenko with flowers before the game on behalf of the FAI, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine as the conflict in their homeland continues.
This Ukrainian side are an age level above Ireland and are currently preparing for the 2023 European Under-21 Championship finals in Romania and Georgia when they will face co-hosts Romania, Spain and Croatia at the end of the month.
It was Ireland who threatened first however as some Moran wizardry sent Oko-Flex down the right side but the ball ricocheted off the Dubliner and out for a kick-out as he bore in on goal after 10 minutes.
The roles were reversed just three minutes later when a clever free-kick on the right side from Oko-Flex released Moran but the Ukrainian defence were happy to concede the corner.
It was Ukraine who then drew first blood in the 16th minute when Ireland left-back Sean Roughan was adjudged to have fouled Oleksii Kashchuk and captain Artem Bondarekno sent goalkeeper Tiernan Brooks the wrong way from the spot.
The Irish refused to sit back and grabbed an equalizer five minutes into added time at the end of the first half when winger Ollie O’Neill made a clever run down the left and released Roughan into space before his cross was steered home by the industrious Moran with the cleverest of finishes from six yards out.
Moran turned provider early in the second half when he sent Carty clear and the striker’s first time effort appeared to be touched away by ‘keeper Rusian Nechcheret for a corner but a kick-out was awarded.
Ireland boss Crawford then introduced three more new caps on 62 minutes as Dara Costelloe came on for Oko-Flex, Ed McJannet replaced Killian Phillips and Dylan Duffy went upfront in place of Carty.
But again Ukraine benefited from a referring decision 10 minutes later when Bosun Lawal clashed with striker Sikan Danylo, the local referee pointed to the spot and Danylo swept the ball past Brooks.
Ireland refused to give up once more and they got their reward in the 82nd minute when Lawal took the game by the scruff of the neck, ran through the heart of the Ukrainian defence and applied the deftest of finishes past substitute ‘keeper Fesiun Kiril.
It was no more than the plucky Irish deserved on a night that saw James Furlong complete the list of debutants as he replaced Sean Roughan late on.
Speaking after the game Ireland Under-21 Head Coach Jim Crawford said: "I think if you look at the context, Ukraine, who are starting their European Championships next week were at full strength. We analysed their game against Italy and they had a strong team out and it was a similar team today. They also had two senior international who were part of their group today, For me, as a group of players, I thought they were outstanding.
"We showed character to come back twice, I thought Andy Moran was a thorn in their side then Bosun delivering an unbelievable individual goal."
Republic of Ireland: Tiernan Brooks; James Abankwah, Bosun Lawal, Anselmo Garcia MacNulty, Sean Roughan (James Furlong, 84’), Killian Phillips (Ed McJannet, 62 ‘), Joe Hodge, Armstrong Oko-Flex (Dara Costelloe 62’), Andy Moran, Ollie O’Neill (Darragh Burns, 79’), Conor Carty (Dylan Duffy, 62’)
Ireland Under-21s international friendly fixtures (All times are Irish Standard Time)
Monday, June 19 | Ireland U21 v Kuwait U22, KO 4pm, Parktherme Arena, Bad Radkersburg, Austria