The Republic of Ireland Men's Under-18s played out a 0-0 draw with Malta in Paola, Malta on Tuesday in the first of two friendlies against the teams this week. Head Coach Colin O'Brien named St. Patrick's Athletic's James Abankwah as captain just days after the youngster won the FAI Cup Final. The opening half saw little action as both sides had to deal with windy conditions coming in from the nearby Valetta Harbour at the Tony Bezzina Stadium. Ireland had most of the possession with the only chance of note coming from Shamrock Rovers' Justin Ferizaj who stung the fingers of Malta goalkeeper Beppe Mangion in the 43rd minute. In the second half Ireland were much more dominant as they pushed for the opening goal. In the 51st minute a great run from Tom Lonergan saw him fire towards goal and Mangion was able to thwart Ireland again. On the hour mark it was the post that denied Ireland. Longergan rose highest for a corner but his header hit the foot of the post and it bounced harmlessly into the hands of the goalkeeper. Ten minutes later Ireland hit the woodwork again when Ferizaj met John Ryan's cross with a strike that hit the crossbar. In the 78th minute Ireland thought they had the goal their play deserved when Lonergan headed home from a free-kick but the linesman adjudged the St. Pat's man to be offside. The late stages of the game saw Ireland pepper the Malta goal but they couldn't find a way past the hosts' rearguard. Ferizaj forced Mangion into another save in the 82nd minute, then Longergan's saw his effort just clear the crossbar. In the 94th minute Abankwah had an opportunity to win it but his turn and shot, following a corner, just went over as the young Boys in Green had to settle for a draw.
Malta: Mangion, Ivin Farrugia, Gambin, Borg, Micallef (C), Miguel Azzopardi, Vassallo, Caruana, Cross, Barbara, Attard
Substitutes: Buttigeg, Ellul, Gatt, Gabriel Farrugia, Grech, Cope, Galea, Scerri, Sebastian Azzopardi, Borg, Bologna Apap
Republic of Ireland: Walsh; Sam Curtis, Abankwah (C), Grehan, Murphy; Ferizaj, Mullins, Gallagher (O'Mahony 89); O'Reilly (Ryan 69), McGuinness, Lonergan
International friendly fixture (kick-off time is Irish time)
Thursday, December 9 | Malta MU18 v Republic of Ireland MU18, Tony Bezzina Stadium, Hibernians FC, Malta, KO 10am