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Ireland edge out Finland to top Group 9

The Republic of Ireland booked their place in the second qualifying round after a last-day victory against rivals Finland enabled them to win Group 9 in Belarus.

Finland clear the danger against Belarus on matchday two
Finland clear the danger against Belarus on matchday two ©ABFF

The Republic of Ireland guaranteed their participation in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship second qualifying round by topping Group 9 ahead of Finland.

Going into the final day of the first qualifying round section in Belarus, Finland led Ireland on goal difference after both had beaten the hosts and Georgia. However, it was Ireland who triumphed 2-1 in the decider to ensure they will play for a finals place in the spring. Finland must hope to finish as one of the five runners-up with the best record against the sides first and third in their section to make it into the 20 November draw.

Ireland opened with a 3-0 win against Belarus, Megan Connolly – who had already scored in the first half – making it two with eight minutes left before Amy O'Connor's added-time clincher. Finland overcame Georgia 11-0 thanks partly to four Louise Björkskog goals.

Björkskog struck again two days later in Finland's 3-0 defeat of Belarus and they maintained their goal difference lead because Ireland's scoreline versus Georgia was 7-0, Connolly and O'Connor again on target and Lisa Casserly scoring twice for the 2010 runners-up.

It all came down to the final day, and after Janni Laakso's own goal had put Ireland ahead, it appeared Julia Tunturi's strike with nine minutes remaining had earned Finland the draw they needed to seal top spot. However, Aisling Frawley's smart finish won it for David Connell's side, and the coach was understandably overjoyed.

"I am absolutely delighted," he said. "Finland are a very strong nation in women's football, so it is a great result for us. We deserved it. We created a lot of chances and kept the tempo high and that came off in the end. We had a bit of luck with the first goal, no doubt about it, but such things happen and you have to take it."