Gary Connaughton reporting from Tallaght Stadium
Ireland entered this evening's game against Bosnia & Herzegovina knowing that only a victory would do if they were to continue their march towards a play-off place in this group. Far from the pressure affecting their performance, they put in a brilliant display to ensure they would come away from Tallaght with three points.
There were a number of excellent displays throughout the side, with a number of their more experienced players standing out in the 3-0 victory.
Here's how we rated the performances on the night.
Ireland U21 Player Ratings
Brian Maher -
Looked a little bit hesitant in possession early on, slowing down the play for Ireland more than they would have liked. He did produce an excellent save to stop Bosnia's only opportunity in the opening 45 minutes.
He pull off another good stop on the hour mark, this time an acrobatic effort to stop a shot from just outside the box.
Lee O'Connor - 6
Defended well when called upon in the opening exchanges, although he perhaps would have hoped to contribute a bit more going forward.
Most of Bosnia's good play did come down that right flank, although O'Connor was sturdy at the back.
Oisín McEntee - 6
While the majority of Bosnian attacks did come down that right channel occupied by O'Connor and McEntee, the Cavan man dealt well with any balls put into dangerous areas.
Unfortunately, he had to be replaced just after the interval after picking up an injury.
Mark McGuinness - 8
Looked very comfortable on the ball in the first half, with the Cardiff City man asked few questions defensively.
McGuinness made a couple of excellent tackles in the second half and showed a willingness to step into midfield when in possession. Ireland's best defender on the night.
Joel Bagan - 7
Having little to do defensively, Bagan was more than willing to get forward from left back in the first half. He looked dangerous at times, putting a couple of excellent deliveries into the opposition penalty area.
He looks like an excellent attacking fullback, very much the prototypical player you want to see in that position in the modern game.
Conor Coventry - 6
Coventry put in a typically combative display in the Irish midfield, although he was not as impactful on the ball as Kilkenny.
The midfielder filled the gaps in front of the defence well, although he perhaps would have liked to be a bit more involved in the general play.
Gavin Kilkenny - 8
Looked brilliant on the ball, dictating the pace of play throughout. Kilkenny is the heartbeat of the team as currently constructed, with most Ireland attacks coming through him in some form.
He is the type of midfielder Ireland have not had in quite some time and has come on in leaps and bounds over the last 12 months or so.
Will Smallbone - 9
Smallbone was always willing to look for possession early in the game, but his passing did let him down on occasion. He burst into life in the 17th minute, getting in behind the opposition defence and slotting the ball beneath the Bosnian goalkeeper to give Ireland the lead.
He played some beautiful passes at times and caused plenty of problems for Bosnia. He capped off a fine performance with his second of the night in the last ten minutes, wrapping up the three points for Ireland.
Powerful, low shot from Will Smallbone finds the net underneath the body of the goalkeeper to give #IRLU21 a 1-0 lead against Bosnia & Herzegovina #COYBIG | #WeAreOne #rtesoccer pic.twitter.com/sLJBFLRJbh
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 3, 2022
Ross Tierney - 6
Worked hard throughout, but wasn't all that involved in the general play early on. He did grow into the game a bit from that point, having a hand in Odubeko's goal to put Ireland 2-0 up.
Replaced by Ollie O'Neill in the 64th minute.
Mipo Odubeko - 8
Had a glorious chance to open the scoring for Ireland after 14 minutes, only for his header to drift wide. However, he would play a key role in Smallbone's goal a few minutes later, providing a beautiful ball in behind to set his teammate away.
He would have his goal just after the hour mark. It was brilliant piece of play the West Ham player, who played a gorgeous one-two with Ross Tierney before finishing beyond the opposition goalkeeper. He was soon replaced by Evan Ferguson after an excellent shift up top.
The local boy strikes in Tallaght as Mipo Odubeko fires #IRLU21 2-0 up against Bosnia & Herzegovina after a nice pass through by Ross Tierney #COYBIG #rtesoccer pic.twitter.com/hC9YQe81WW
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 3, 2022
Tyreik Wright - 6
Wright was a constant threat with his pace in behind, although the pass was often lacking on the occasions that he did stretch the defence.
The winger constantly looked dangerous, but things just didn't click for him for much of the game.
Jake O'Brien - 7
Replacing McEntee in the 53rd minute, O'Brien's introduction coincided with Bosnia's best spell in the game. However, he looked fairly comfortable with any balls directed towards him.
He grew into the contest as it went on and looked very comfortable towards the end, although he would produce a fine assist for Will Smallbone late on.
Evan Ferguson - 6
Ferguson showed some nice touches after coming on, although Ireland did not seem too intent in committing bodies forward after taking the two-goal lead. He was a tad unlucky not to turn the ball in for Ireland's third, although Smallbone would eventually finish the job.
Ollie O'Neill - 7
O'Neill was full of energy after his introduction, it was his fine pass that Ireland away for the third goal.
Dawson Devoy - 6
Did not have much impact on the game after coming on in the 75th minute, although he did work hard off the ball