Mick McCarthy tasted victory for the first time in eight games since taking over from Jack Charlton as the Republic of Ireland team manager when his young side overwhelmed Bolivia at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on Saturday.
The hero was the 20-year-old Norwich City striker, Keith O'Neill, who grabbed two goals as the Irish won their final US Cup tie, after losing to the host nation and drawing with Mexico. The 18-year-old Leeds defender, Ian Harte, headed home the third just before the interval following a first half of complete Irish domination.
The Irish were always in control and never looked back after O'Neill put them ahead on 12 minutes. Aston Villa's Gareth Farrelly swung over a corner from the right and O'Neill's header gave goalkeeper Mauricio Soria no chance. They stretched their lead after 32 minutes when full- back Curtis Fleming put the speedy O'Neill through on the right. He ran some 30 yards before planting a left-footed shot past the bewildered Bolivian custodian.
The Chelsea full-back, Terry Phelan, took over as captain from the injured Alan Kernaghan in the 35th minute, with the Birmingham defender Gary Breen coming on as a replacement. Ten minutes later, another Farrelly corner produced the third goal, with the unmarked Harte allowed a free header.
As the Republic relaxed in the second half, the biggest cheer of the night was for the introduction of the veteran Celtic goalkeeper, Pat Bonner, in the 86th minute to win his 80th international cap.
"I wouldn't swap this squad of players for any team which we have played in this competition," McCarthy said. "All the young players were outstanding, and Keith O'Neill took his goals in great style. The tournament has been worthwhile as we have unearthed several young players."
Goals: O'Neill (12) 1-0; O'Neill (32) 2-0; Harte (44) 3-0.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Blackburn); Fleming (Middlesbrough), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Kernaghan (Manchester City), Harte (Leeds), Phelan (Chelsea), Savage (Millwall), O'Brien (Tranmere), Farrelly (Aston Villa), O'Neill (Norwich), Moore (Middlesbrough). Substitutes: Breen (Birmingham) for Kernaghan, 35; McLoughlin (Portsmouth) for O'Brien, h-t; Kennedy (Liverpool) for Farrelly, 65; Bonner (Celtic) for Given, 86;
BOLIVIA: M Soria (Bolivar), Pena (Real Valladolid), Sanchez (The Strongest), Rimba (Bolivar), Castillo (The Strongest), Baldivieso (Bolivar), Etcheverry (Washington DC Utd), Ramos (The Strongest), Cossio (San Jose Clash), Sandy (Real Valladolid), Moreno (Middlesbrough). Substitutes: Cristaldo (Bolivar) for Ramos, 41; Coimbra (Oriente Petrolero) for Moreno, h-t.
Referee: E Baharmast (US).
Bookings: Republic of Ireland: O'Brien. Bolivia: Etcheverry.
Man of the match: O'Neill.
Attendance: 14,624 (at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey).Reuse content