The Republic of Ireland’s Men's Under-19s were forced to settle for a draw in the first of their friendly double-header with a talented Sweden side, who battled from two goals down to make it 2-2 in Marbella on Friday afternoon. Goals from Evan Caffrey and Zak Gilsenan had given Ireland a 2-0 lead by the midway point in the first half but a penalty from Ahmed Qasem before the break and a finish from Arash Motaraghebjafarpour in the second 45 was enough to earn the Swedish a share of the spoils. Tom Mohan took a squad of 23 players to the south of Spain to prepare for their UEFA Under-19 European Qualifiers in Bulgaria next month, where they will face Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro in their group. It had been 689 days since Mohan’s side last competed in an international fixture when they were beaten 2-0 by Austria in Salzburg back in November 2019. After almost two years without a match, this was of course a very different Under-19s squad with six players - John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa, Cristiano Fitzgerald, Oisin Gallagher, Jevon Mills, Josh Seary, and Harry Vaughan - winning their first Ireland caps. Eager to make an impact, this vibrant Irish team started brightly and they deservedly took the lead in the ninth minute after some relentless pressing high up the pitch created the chance for Evan Caffrey, which the UCD midfielder finished with aplomb. The Swedes struggled to handle the Irish press and the Boys in Green duly doubled their lead midway through the half in similar circumstances to their first goal, although on this occasion it was Zak Gilsenan finding the net. But Sweden would be handed a lifeline shortly before the break as the referee pointed to the penalty spot, allowing right-winger Ahmed Qasem to fire the ball past goalkeeper Daniel Rose from 12 yards. They took that momentum into the second period and just past the hour mark they snatched an equaliser thanks to right-back Arash Motaraghebjafarpour. In the end, these two spirited teams couldn’t be separated and they will go head to head again this coming Monday, October the 11th with kick-off set for 11am Irish time.
Republic of Ireland: Daniel Rose, Josh Seary (James Abankwah 62), Omatyo Adaramola, Bosun Lawal, Anselmo Garcia MacNulty, Oisin Gallagher (Jevon Mills 76), Cristiano Fitzgerald (Val Adedokun 62), John Joe Patrick Finn Benoa (Ed McJannet 70), Zak Gilsenan (Luke Pearce 49), Evan Caffrey (Ben McCormack 70), Jamie Mullins (Harry Vaughan 62).