A 96th minute goal from Shaun Donnellan gave Ireland a crucial win in their European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Round match in Tallaght Stadium.

Shaun Donnellan got on the end of Ryan Manning’s inviting free kick to scramble home a priceless winner for Noel King’s side that had a big input from Donegal native Ronan Curtis.

In the opening half, Derry City attacker Curtis, who hails from St. Johnston, looked lively throughout and his strike on goal could only be parried by Kamran Ibrahimov in the Azeri goal. The onrushing Reece Grego-Cox was first to the breaking ball but Ibrahimov smoothered his close range effort.

Ireland came flying out of the blocks in the second period. Jake Mulraney was unlucky to see his appeals for a penalty waved away while Ryan Manning’s 25 yard free kick was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Ibrahimov.

Noel King’s side continued to press with Shaun Donnellan and Derry City's Ronan Hale seeing their shots on goal block by last ditch defending.

However, following a free kick won after Olamide Shodipo was upended out wide, Manning delivered for Donnellan to send the Tallaght Stadium crowd wild.

Republic of Ireland U21 Head Coach Noel King, a former Derry City and Finn Harps manager, said: "It was a fantastic way to win a game, in my career, I've never a winner like that so we're absolutely delighted.

"They made it really difficult for us but that kind of spirit and commitment shows exactly what this group of players is all about. They had to go right until the last minute but they kept their heads up and got what they deserved in the end.

"It puts us in a great position in the group with some big games to go so whilst there is still a lot of work to do, we can be proud of the position we've put ourselves in. I'd also like to thank all of the supporters who came out tonight, they really drove the supporters on."

Republic of Ireland: O’Hara; Whelan, Donnellan, Sweeney, Kane (Hale 82); Rice, Cullen, Manning; Mulraney (Shodipo 56), Grego-Cox, Curtis (Quigley 89).

Substitutes: Bossin (GK), Dimaio, Kinsella, Hale, Quigley, Delaney.

Azerbaijan: Ibrahimov; Krivotsyuk, Sarkarov, Mustafazade, Tashgin; Koekcue (Shahverdiyev 57), Nasirov (Muradov 64), Hajiyev, Aliyev, Madatov; Sheydaev.

Substitutes: Seyidakhmedov (GK), Shavverdiyev, Muradov, Azizov, Maharramli, Buludov.

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