Ireland's Brendan Moloney holds off Jose Angel.

Ireland's Brendan Moloney holds off Jose Angel.

Ireland's Brendan Moloney holds off Jose Angel.

Ireland's Brendan Moloney holds off Jose Angel.

Republica de Irlanda 2; Espana 1

Waterford, 27 de marzo de 2009 will be remembered for some time to come in Waterford soccer circles. When the Barrack Street Concert Band performed the National Anthems of the Republic Ireland and Spain just before the kick-off time of 7.45, a capacity crowd was present for the first time since the new RSC stand was opened in May 2008.

An excited attendance of 3,400 were seated to watch a game between an improving Irish team and a side from Spain who were ranked No 1 at this level. The Kilbarry venue was a magical place last Friday night. The last time the Waterford venue hosted an Under 21 game was back in September 2003. On that occasion Don Givens’ side defeated Russia 2-0 thanks to two goals from Graham Barrett (both in the second half). One of the Russian players on view that night was Andrei Arshavin, who currently stars with Arsenal.

The most recent international, prior to last Friday, was the meeting of the Republic of Ireland and France at Under 19 level in March 2008. Those present can still recall the brilliant performance of the French visitors who won 3-0. Three members of the Irish team that night were Shane Redmond, Michael Spillane and David Meyler and all three were involved in last Friday’s game also.

Spain won all eight of their qualifying games in the Under 21 European Championship group and as a result they were red-hot favourites to defeat Ireland, but they came up against a team in green who were keen to win ahead of their opening game four days later against Turkey in the opening game of the UEFA Under 21 European Championship of 2011.

The fact that Ireland have been drawn in a six-team group ensured that they have to begin their campaign very early. They have been pitted against Switzerland, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia and of course Turkey.

At the present time Don Givens has an array of talent to work with and as a result competition for places in the squad is high. The most experienced player in the Ireland squad is midfielder Owen Garvan. With over 120 first team appearances for Ipswich Town under his belt, Garvan scored both goals when Ireland drew 2-2 with Portugal recently. He didn’t score on Friday last but he did play a major role in his team’s two goals. A player of immense ability, he was named in Giovanni Trapattoni’s first ever senior squad.

All 17 players have big futures in the game, none more so than Waterford’s very own Eddie Nolan. The young defender from the Pine Mews area of Waterford City was also called up by Trapattoni a short time ago but unfortunately he had to withdraw because of injury.

The former Blackburn Rovers player recently moved to Preston North End and he has blossomed into a magnificent defender. The young player who learnt his trade with Waterford Bohemians can play at right-back or centre-back, and on Friday he filled the later position brilliantly.

It was a night to remember for Eddie and indeed the entire family. His parents, Eddie snr and Rosarie and the rest of the Nolan clan watched proudly as Eddie wore the captain’s armband in front of the sell-out crowd. To cap off a wonderful night, he was named ‘Man of the Match’ by the former Republic of Ireland star, Ray Houghton, who was working for Sky Sports.

Superb free kick 

Played on what was a rather showery evening, Spain were the first team to show their teeth as an attacking force. Daniel Parejo picked out Kiko from the left but Kiko saw his solid header tipped over the bar by the Irish goalkeeper Shane Redmond.

Redmond was back in action once again on 12 minutes when he raced from his line to block a low strike from Jeffren after Daniel Parejo had split the home defence.

Garvan had Ireland’s first shot on goal when he turned quickly just outside the penalty area on 19 minutes but his sweet left-footed effort went inches wide.

Ireland took the lead in the 37th minute. Garvan whipped in a brilliant free kick from the right with his left foot. The Barcelona goalkeeper Ruben Mino could only parry and ball against Jay O’Shea, and when the ball came back to O’Shea, the Galway United winger made no mistake at the second attempt.

Redmond produced a fine save right on the blow of half-time. Jeffren crossed the ball into the penalty area and the Irish defender Seamus Coleman, who was signed by Everton from Sligo Rovers, almost put the ball into his own net while under pressure from Jordi Alba, but somehow Redmond managed to claw the ball off his line.

Judge condemns Spain 

David Meyler, the former Cork City youth player now with Sunderland, sent in a cracking low strike following a long run on 53 minutes but Ruben Mino got down well to save.

One minute before that effort, Stephen Henderson (son of the Waterford United manager) did superbly well to block an effort from the Spanish striker Bolado. Henderson had replaced Shane Redmond for the second period.

Ireland made it 2-0 in stunning fashion after 58 minutes. Cillian Sheridan of Celtic (currently on loan to Motherwell) drilled in a low cross from the left in what was a smashing counter-attack.

Owen Garvan dummied the Spanish defender with a lovely step-over and that allowed Alan Judge the chance to score, something he did beautifully from 10 yards range. The Republic of Ireland did give away a rather soft goal on 63 minutes. Stephen Henderson pushed a deflected effort from Jeffren out for a corner kick and Bolado punished the home defence by drilling home a low shot from the resulting cross.

Ten minutes later Owen Garvan very nearly made it 3-1 when he tried his luck from just inside the halfway line but his effort went narrowly over the crossbar.

Ireland held out for victory without any great deal of trouble after that, thanks mainly to a masterful display by Eddie Nolan at the heart of the defence.

Republic of Ireland: Shane Redmond (Eastwood Town, Henderson h-t), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Graham Carey (Bohs, 56), Brendan Moloney (Notts Forest), Eddie Nolan (Preston North End), Darren Dennehy (Hereford), Stephen Gleeson (Wolves), John Joe O’Toole (Sheffield United, 76), David Meyler (Sunderland), Alan Judge (Plymouth Argyle), Christy Fagan (Glen Hoddle Academy, 76), Owen Garvan (Ipswich Town), Jay O’Shea (Galway United), Cillian Sheridan (Motherwell).


Spain: Mino (Barcelona), Azpilicueta (Osasuna), Jose Angel, Kiko (Villarreal), Mikel San Jose (Liverpool), Camacho (Atletico Madrid), Nsue (Castellon, 74), Jeffren (Barcelona), Aaron (Rangers, 74), Marc Crosas (Celtic), Bedia (Celtic, 62), Bolado (Elche CF), Michel, (Valencia, 74), Daniel Parejo (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Club Gimnastic Tarragona). 

Referee: Peter Sippel (Germany); Assistant Referees: Christian Bandurski (Germany), Rene Kunsleben (Germany). Fourth Official: Graham Kelly (Ireland).