Ireland U21s suffer penalty shoot-out heartache in controversial circumstances 1 year ago

Ireland U21s suffer penalty shoot-out heartache in controversial circumstances

You really have to feel for Darragh Leahy.

Ireland U21s finished fourth at the 2019 Toulon Tournament after first drawing with Mexico in a playoff decider and then losing 4-3 on penalties.

Stephen Kenny's side had reached the last four by defeating China and Bahrain but were beaten 2-0 by Brazil in the semi-final.

On Saturday, they faced a Mexico side with more than a few handy players in their starting XI and, in Sebastian Jurado, a very good goalkeeper. Jurado was extremely vocal throughout the tight encounter and he came up trumps in the shoot-out.

Republic of Ireland team (back row, from left) Liam Scales, Caoimhin Kelleher, Conor Masterson, Aaron Drinan, Jamie Lennon and Jack Taylor. Front row, from left, Lee O'Connor, Jason Knight, Tyreke Wilson, Canice Carroll and Stephen Mallon prior to the 2019 Maurice Revello Toulon Tournament Third Place Play-off. (Photo by Alexandre Dimou/Sportsfile)

The match was played out in toasty mid-afternoon conditions at at the Stade d'Honneur Marcel Roustan in Salon-de-Provence.

Both sides had chances to settle the tie over the course of 90 minutes but Jurado, who plays in goal for Veracruz, and Liverpool's Caoimhin Kelleher both made decent saves. Kelleher was replaced after 65 minutes and UCD's Conor Kearns kept the Irish clean sheet.

The tie immediately went to penalties and Ireland quickly fell behind when Conor Ronan missed the opening spot-kick. Jack Taylor and Aaron Connolly then scored and, after three kicks apiece, it was 2-2 when Kearns saved this effort from Erick Aguirre:


Adam Idah put Ireland 3-2 ahead before Cristian Calderon levelled it again. And then a moment of controversy for Ireland.

Bohemians defender Darragh Leahy stepped up and found the bottom corner with his penalty, but he was ordered to re-take it as the referee had not blown his whistle. Leahy had to take his kick again, with this heckle from Jurado ringing in his ears:

"You're going to change your mind... I know you."

Leahy did not change his mind. He went for the same side but Jurado did too, and the penalty was saved.

It was left to Jesus Angulo to see if he could clinch third-place for his side. He stepped up and slotted past Kearns and Mexico won 4-3.

A shame that Ireland had to lose the playoff in that manner but the players, and Stephen Kenny, will have taken a lot from the past fortnight of football.