Republic of Ireland 2 Mexico 1
GOALS from Cork's Franco Umeh and Mark O’Mahony helped the Republic of Ireland U17s rally and defeat a talented Mexico side 2-1 in their friendly international at Turner’s Cross on Sunday night.
Second-half goals from the City pair earned the Boys in Green a morale-boosting and gave them the bragging rights before the two teams meet again at this venue on Tuesday afternoon.
Over 800 local spectators attended the game having been provided with free tickets and with there being such a big interest from a Cork perspective.
City’s Umeh and Cathal Heffernan started the fixture with the latter captaining the side, while their teammates O’Mahony and Liam Murray had to settle for a seat on the bench next to manager Colin O’Brien and coach David Meyler, both formerly of City.
Ireland had the first sight at goal inside the opening minutes and it was the two former Ringmahon Rangers stars that combined but Heffernan just couldn’t get a good connection to Umeh’s dangerous free-kick.
And with their first goal-scoring opportunity, Mexico took the lead as the lively Alexei Dominguez raced onto a long ball over the top of the defence and coolly slotted the ball into the far bottom left corner of the net.
The home side went close to levelling the scores midway through the first half but after a great run to the end line and clever pullback by Celtic’s Rocco Vata, Inter Milan’s Kevin Zefi’s low drive was saved.
The Republic’s next chance came moments before the half-time break but Sam Curtis headed wide at the back post when unmarked.
They could have been further behind by then though as Dominguez curled inches past the right post from distance after Juan Pablo Palma looped a close-range header onto the roof of the net.
The Mexicans would be punished for not taking their chances as Umeh grabbed an equaliser for Ireland when he towered a header home at the beginning of the second period in front of the Shed.
Perhaps if it wasn’t a friendly Mexico would have been reduced to 10 men before that leveller as their goalkeeper Emmanuel Ochoa clattered Cadem McLoughlin well outside his area as the attacker looked to take the ball past him.
But Ireland didn’t need any help from the officials and they secured the win when substitute O’Mahony raced clear on goal before finishing superbly late on.