Waterford players and backroom team members, Jason Healy and Romeo Akachukwu, Gary Power and Shane Nolan after Ireland booked their place in the U-17 Euros.
UEFA European Under 17 Elite Round Qualifying
The Republic of Ireland have qualified for the finals of the EURO Under 17 Championship for the first time since 2019 as a 95th minute finish from Nickson Okosun secured a brilliant comeback win over Cyprus today (Monday) to send the Irish to Hungary in May.
After twice going behind in the final group game after an opening draw over Italy and a 3-0 win over Ukraine, the Irish went into the match against the host country known that a draw would secure a passage into May’s finals, but they went one better.
With Cyprus already eliminated from qualification, they didn’t make things easy for a Colin O’Brien side that featured Waterford FC duo Romeo Akachukwu and Jason Healy with the latter playing every minute of the three games, and Akachukwu scoring the opening goal in the draw over Italy.
But in the game that mattered most, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Ireland as they found themselves a goal down with 39 minutes on the clock when Chrysis Evangelou found the back of the net before Ireland made a double change at the half-time break with Akachukwu introduced at the break.
It was Luke Kehir that settled the nerves of the Irish faithful when he beat the Cyprus keeper with a 68th minute free-kick, but the hosts got their noses back in front just five minutes later through Ioannis Avramidis before Giorgos Sokratous was sent off for two yellow cards.
Naj Razi gave Ireland the equalising goal that they needed eight minutes from time, and after been introduced as a 94th minute substitute, it was Nickson Okosun that was the toast for Ireland as his goal two minutes later ensured an incredible result for the Irish.
In the first group game, Ireland raced into a two-goal lead at the half-time break with Akachukwu opening the scoring, against the group favourites, before an own goal put O’Brien’s men in the driving seat, only for the Italians to come storming back through goals from a Tommaso Ravagnoli penalty and Mattia Mannini.
Jason Healy kept his place in the Republic of Ireland team for the second group game against Ukraine where he kept a cleansheet as a hat-trick from St. Patrick’s Athletic’s Mason Melia edged his country closer to the finals with a 3-0 win.
It wasn’t just wasn’t Akachukwu and Healy that were the Waterford connection in the Irish squad as Gary Power and Shane Nolan were back of O’Brien’s backroom team. A brilliant day for Irish football and well done to all concerned.