Liverpool knocked their rivals Manchester United out of the Uefa Youth League today in the last 16 tie. Most encouraging from an Irish perspective, three underage prospects featured during the game.
Three Irish lads involved today in the Liverpool vs United game. Glen McAuley the latest to come on, Lee O'Connor gone off for United and Conor Masterson.
— Robbie Dunne (@robbiejdunne) February 21, 2018
Managed by Steven Gerrard, Liverpool were deserving winners against a Nicky Butt managed team that struggled to get into the game. A Ben Woodburn’s header and Camacho's long-range effort sealed a 2-0 victory for Liverpool.
Starting at centre-back for the winners was Conor Masterson, who pulled off a quick-thinking goal line clearance with the score at 1-0 and Tahith Chong unleashing a shot at goal. Dubliner Glen McAuley, who has played for Ireland from U16 onwards, came on for Liverpool in the second half.
As for Manchester United, Lee O'Connor, who struggled initially with homesickness, continues his recent rise through the youth academy. O'Connor made his reserves or U23 debut against Tottenham last month and earned some big plaudits.
Lee O'Connor cuts out a counter attack with a slide tackle then gets up and outsprints the attacker & sells him a dummy to come away with the ball. Such a composed player
— jb8521 (@jb_8521) January 29, 2018
He started at centre-half tonight and once again impressed. The Waterford man looks a skilled defender with his ability to compound the area and compete in the air obvious, but most encouragingly was his skill with ball at his feet. Repeatedly during the game, O'Connor picked up the ball deep in his own half and drove forward, in a bid to instigate something for a malfunctioning United side.
Probably the only consistent positive for United has been Lee O'Connor. He's been getting his Eredivisie on and it's constantly driving into midfield with the ball and starting attacking moves. A brave thing to do on this pitch that has seen better days, especially in the centre.
— Rowd (@RowdenJRSG) February 21, 2018
— Manchester United 🐝 (@NewManUtdNews) February 21, 2018
It is early days for all three players, but given their success at underage for the Republic of Ireland and the high regard they are held in at each club there is reason to be hopeful. At Liverpool, Caoimhin Kelleher has been apart of the senior matchday squad, Corey Whelan recently signed a contract extension, Conor Masterson was involved during the League Cup and Gerrard is publicly a fan of Glen McAuley.
With the FAI announcing an additional €250,000 to support youth development in Ireland last week, finally it seems as if steps are being taken towards addressing the production problem.