CORK City duo Mark O’Mahony and Franco Umeh made sure that the Republic of Ireland U18s opened up a tournament in Croatia with a 3-1 win over Sweden.
O’Mahony scored a brace and Umeh won his side a penalty in Poreč on Tuesday afternoon. The result gives Ireland an ideal platform to build from ahead of games against Denmark and Croatia.
Colin O’Brien’s side started quickly with Umeh forcing a penalty in the eighth minute and O’Mahony converted this. Sweden responded with Momodou Lamin Sonko scoring an equaliser and this did not deter the energy of the young Boys in Green.
Ireland kept pushing and Umeh forced an excellent save from Swedish goalkeeper Elis Bishesari in the 26th minute.
Crystal Palace’s Joseph Gibbard scored his first goal from just outside the box and this made it 2-1 to Ireland at the start of the second half. O’Mahony wrapped things up in the 54th minute by tapping in a rebound following a save by Bishesari.
Ireland’s attention now turns to their meeting with Denmark on Friday.
They go into the fixture with a squad bursting with talent, a group that includes Leesider Cathal Heffernan. The defender, who signed for AC Milan earlier this year from Cork City, did not feature against Sweden on Tuesday.
It was O’Mahony and Umeh who flew the flag for the Rebel County, something they have grown used to in recent international windows.
Last September, they led the line for Ireland during an U19 European Championships qualifying tournament in Wales. They contributed four goals to the cause and this made sure Ireland finished as group winners.
O’Mahony bagged a hat-trick in their first game against Gibraltar and hosts Wales went down to a last-minute goal by Umeh. This secured qualification to the tournament’s Elite Round with a game in hand last autumn.