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Ireland Veterans V England Veterans Match

Republic of Ireland veterens team in 2011
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND VETERANS: back row, from left: Aidan Brady (Physio), Dick Redmond (Kit), Gerry Smith, Anto Whelan, Ciaran Maher, John Cleary, Dermot O'Neill, Ray Browning, Jacko McDonagh, Pat White, Terry Eviston, Mick Byrne, Mick Pender, Harry McCue (Manager). Front row: Davy Keogh, Sean Wilson, Tom Kennedy, Tom O'Connor, Gino Lawless, Mick Lawlor (captain), Leroy Rhodes, Paul Fetherson, John Treacy.

On Saturday 10th September 2011 the inaugural FAI veterans international match took place between the Republic of Ireland and England. The following match report, supplementary reporting, and match day photos are courtesy of Eamon Scott and the Evening Herald Striker. Our sincere thanks and appreciation go to Eamon and the Herald.

FAI Veterans Sink England

REP IRELAND VETERANS....3 - ENGLAND VETERANS........1

By Eamon Scott
SHAMROCK ROVERS legend Mick Byrne showed his predatory instincts were still razor sharp as he netted twice to send the Republic of Ireland to a well deserved debut victory at this grade against England at Whitehall on Saturday.

Skippered by the 'veteran veteran' Mick Lawlor, the Harry McCue managed side had to do it the hard way after England had gone in front after 14 minutes.

Kenny Nimmons availed of a breakdown in communications in the home defence to plant the ball past Dermot O'Neill who got a hand to the ball and Gino Lawless cleared, only for the match officials to indicate the ball had crossed the line.

England had started the better and Chris Hill in the middle of the park impressed with his range of passing and his movement and it could have been two-nil on 33 minutes when England picked the Irish defence but O'Neill narrowed the angle and then pressurised the ball and England spurned a glorious chance by putting it over the bar.

It was a let-off but Ireland grew in stature and after losing Jacko McDonagh to an ankle injury, Tom O'Connor provided the cross for Mick Byrne to level from close in on 35 minutes.

Terry Eviston, who had combined well with Byrne then picked up a rib injury as McCue was forced into a rash of early substitutions.

Mick Lawlor battling for the ball with England's Keith Sharp
Irish Skipper Mick Lawlor battling for the ball with England's Keith Sharp

The Irish however continued to make inroads and Leroy Rhodes from Mullingar then set up Byrne with a delightful cross but Adrian Stannard was grateful to see Byrne's header come back off the upright and into his arms.

Stannard was picking the ball out of the net just before the break when O'Connor was once again provider and Byrne, lurking with intent finished off to the back of the net to give the Vets in Green and interval lead.

McCue made several substitutions as he emptied his bench to godly effect with Ireland enjoying plenty of possession. Despite the tiring limbs, the pace of the game remained at a decent tempo and the competitive edge never slackened with plenty of 'meaty challenges'.

Ireland's insurance goal came on 64 minutes when England lost possession in midfield and Gerry Smith played in John Cleary who timed his run to perfection to slot the ball past the despairing dive of Stannard.

There was still time for a cameo show from Davy Keogh, who turns out for Iveagh Celtic, to get in a decent turn down the right flank.

England had been regulars at this level with games against Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There's probably the making of a competition in there with Ireland showing they can more than hold their own and with plenty of 50 plus players waiting to get a bit of the action in the squad, it looks like a grade that, instead of putting old soldiers out to grass, now looks set for some more exciting battles ahead!

Eamon Scott further reports:

'Vets' Put in a Winning Shift

Goal Aces: Mick Byrne & John Cleary
Veteran Goal Aces: Mick Byrne (2) & John Cleary

THERE WERE several rivetting cameo displays as the clock was rolled back at Whitehall on Saturday for the inaugural FAI international veterans game.

Adding a little 'edge' to the occasion was the fact that the opposition was England -and as the old saying goes "You don't play friendlies against England, you always play to win."

Jacko McDonagh and Terry Eviston will attest to the fact that the game was very competitive with McDonagh limping out after a late challenge while Eviston bust a couple of ribs after coming out second best in a challenge.

Leading out the Republic of Ireland was seven-times capped Mick Lawlor. It was a proud Lawlor, 62, who made his Shamrock Rovers debut back in April 1966 who proudly donned the skipper's armband to captain Vets in Green.

Davy Keogh ('Says Hello') receiving his cap
Davy Keogh ('Says Hello') receives his cap

"I've played at youth, 23, and senior but this is the first time I've captained a Republic of Ireland side, so it's a great honour and privilege for me."

"We had to scramble for a few bodies but it worked out well in the end. I'm delighted and honoured to have led out my country and to have won the match too."

For the present, manager Harry McCue's 100% record means that his job is safe, but he was anxious to pay credit to the FAI Junior Council for embracing the idea of international football for veterans and he sees a healthy future for the grade.

"It was a great occasion. It was very competitive and we were delighted to have won. I'd like to thank the FAI and in particular Dennis Cruise and Paddy McGrath for looking after us in a very professional way."

Irish Mascot Mia Lawlor with Mick Lawlor
Irish Mascot Mia Lawlor with Mick Lawlor (Capt)

As for the match itself, McCue was full of praise for Mick Byrne. "He was excellent and he's still a great header of the ball and he took both goals very well. John Cleary also did well for his goal."

"Here was great spirit and it's a tremendous platform for this age group. England are looking for a return around Easter and if people are available, we'd be happy to accommodate them," said McCue.

************************************************

Once again thanks are due to Eamon Scott and the Evening Herald Striker for their kind permission to reproduce the photos and match report here on soccer-ireland.com.

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