Goal joy for Cork soccer stars Browne and Long as four Leesiders start in Ireland win over Bulgaria

Goal joy for Cork soccer stars Browne and Long as four Leesiders start in Ireland win over Bulgaria
Corkers... Alan Browne celebrates scoring his side's opening goal with John Egan, watched by Conor Hourihane. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Republic of Ireland 3 Bulgaria 1

CORK’S Alan Browne and Kevin Long scored their first International goals as the Republic of Ireland — captained by John Egan — defeated Bulgaria 3-1 in their friendly at the Aviva Stadium last night.

Kevin Long hit the net for Ireland. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Kevin Long hit the net for Ireland. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Mick McCarthy made 10 changes to his side which held Switzerland to a 1-1 draw in their Euro 2020 qualifier at this venue last Thursday evening with Conor Hourihane the only player to retain his starting berth, although it was in an unfamiliar left-back role.

The Bandon man took his place in the back four alongside fellow Leesiders Egan and Kevin Long, while Browne featured in a slightly more advanced position further up the pitch in midfield.

Back: Ronan Curtis, Cyrus Christy, Mark Travers, Conor Hourihane, John Egan, and Kevin Long. Front: Alan Browne, Alan Judge, Josh Cullen, Callum O’Dowda, and Scott Hogan. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Back: Ronan Curtis, Cyrus Christy, Mark Travers, Conor Hourihane, John Egan, and Kevin Long. Front: Alan Browne, Alan Judge, Josh Cullen, Callum O’Dowda, and Scott Hogan. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland almost fell behind on two occasions in the opening minutes but they were fortunate that Georgi Pashov and Kristian Dimitrov both failed to test goalkeeper Mark Travers with free headers.

The Boys in Green threatened themselves moments later but Alan Judge’s header dropped over rather than under the bar before he also saw a weak shot saved by goalkeeper Hristo Ivanov, a debutant at age 37.

They needed Josh Cullen and Egan to produce last-ditch blocks to deny the Bulgarians midway through the first half shortly after Browne sliced a difficult half volley wide of the target.

Bishopstown's John Egan was Ireland captain. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Bishopstown's John Egan was Ireland captain. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The Republic finished the first 45 on the front foot and the visitors needed Ivanov to make an excellent stop to prevent Ronan Curtis’ cross from finding the far bottom right corner.

Browne would finally give Ireland the lead in the 56th minute with his first goal for the senior side in his fifth appearance.

Ireland's Alan Browne scores. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Ireland's Alan Browne scores. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

After Ronan Curtis’ powerful strike was parried, Scott Hogan’s mishit rebound fell into the path of Browne, giving the former Ringmahon Rangers man the simple task of rolling the ball home from a couple of yards.

They would only be ahead for 11 minutes as Bulgaria equalised when substitute Ivelin Popov blasted his penalty into the top left corner after Egan fouled Bozhidar Kraev inside the box.

But Ireland would snatch the win in the closing stages as Kevin Long headed home at the back post before James Collins added a third late on.

Conor Hourihane takes a thrown. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor Hourihane takes a thrown. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Meanwhile, the Irish U21s made it three wins out of three in their bid to qualify for the 2021 European Championships in Hungary and Slovenia as they came from behind to defeat Sweden 3-1 last night.

Troy Parrot proved to be the hero as he came off the substitute’s bench to score either side of Conor Masterson’s header to give Stephen Kenny’s side a crucial victory away from home.

Former College Corinthians stalwart Adam Idah also made an appearance from the bench in the 82nd minute, while Caoimhin Kelleher played the entire game in goal.

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