Olamide Shodipo 56' -
The Republic of Ireland began their qualifying campaign for the EURO 2019 under-19 championships with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Kosovo on Saturday in Tallaght Stadium.
Port Vale's on-loan winger Olamide Shodipo scored the decisive goal in the second half, finishing into an empty net from a Ryan Manning corner after the home side had largely dominated proceedings.
Noel King's men will be glad to overturn the determined opposition, competing in their first UEFA Under-21 Championships, who almost equalised when Mendurim Hoti hit the inside of the Irish post twice before Ryan Sweeney cleared off the line.
It was an even start to the game as the away side came out focused, pressurising Ireland from the get-go, but Ireland looked to threaten with a long ball from Corey Whelan just evading Harry Charsley.
Kosovo's first threat was a run from Leonard Pilana that was cut out by a good challenge from Shaun Donnellan before Charsley, always a threat on the counter for Ireland, set up Connor Dimaio in the 24th minute, only for the midfielder to blaze over.
Another chance came for Whelan in the 28th minute but it was cleared by Arian Kabashi, before Shodipo was brought down by Drillon Tejeci before he could send Manning through.
With Ireland all over they were unlucky not to go in 1-0 up before the break as another chance came to Dimaio, but he missed, curling his effort wide of the right post as the sides went in scoreless.
Kosovo registered the first shot of the second half as Pilana's effort was turned away by Kieran O'Hara, before a header over the bar from Ron Broja marked the away team's best spell of the game thus far.
In the 56th minute, however, it was Ireland who went in front. Shodipo got the final touch in a goalmouth scramble after Dimaio's shot from Manning's corner was blocked.
Just two minutes later, Hoti smashed the Irish upright after evading Whelan on the edge of the box.
A scrappy middle to the second half saw two Irish yellow cards in quick succession for crunching tackles on Kosovan midfielders, Dimaio and Manning both going in the book as frustration threatened to take hold
The QPR man was substituted immediately, replaced by Reece Grego-Cox who almost made an instant impact, as he was played through only to see the ball was smothered by Kosovan goalkeeper Visar Beka.
Ireland were not safe yet, however, and a shot from Florent Hasani brought a save from O'Hara, before a free kick from Ardit Gashi was sent over after hitting Hoti in the Irish wall.
In the 81st minute, Ireland had a glorious chance to go 2-0 up when Donnellan was found unmarked in the box, but he hesitated before taking his shot and allowed Beka to get back into position and collect.
Beka sent the ball out to Hasani, and a great cross from the Kosovo number 8 found Hoti on the edge of the box, his sweetly struck volley beating O'Hara but not the Irish post, smashing the inside of the left of the goal before Sweeney cleared it from the line.
Kosovo continued to push with another effort from Hoti going just wide of the left post, before Gashi cut in off the left wing and smashed a shot forcing a good save from O'Hara.
Ireland stabilised in added time and were able to create one more opportunity for Charsley, which was was cleared by Kabashi, but it was nonetheless an encouraging performance from the boys in green, with three points on the board from the opening group game.
Republic of Ireland: Kieran O'Hara; Danny Kane, Shaun Donnellan, Ryan Sweeney, Corey Whelan; Harry Charsley, Joshua Cullen, Connor Dimaio, Olamide Shodipo; Ryan Manning (Reece Grego-Cox 67), Ronan Curtis.
Subs not used: Liam Bossin, Liam Kinsella, Rory Hale, Ethan Blake, Connor O'Grady, Joseph Quigley.
Booked: Connor Dimalo (66), Ryan Manning (67), Olamide Shodipo (70), Corey Whelan (84).
Kosovo: Visar Beka; Drillon Tejeci, Rron Statovci, Arian Kabashi, Florent Hasani; Ardit Gashi, Ron Broja, Engjell Hoti (Albert Dabiqaj 53), Yiber Maloku, Mendurim Hoti; Leonard Pilana (Alamir Ajzeri 68).
Subs not used: Betim Halimi, Albert Dabiqaj, Enis Alaj, Blendi Bafitu, Kushtrim Shabani, Drin Ladrovci.
Booked: Florent Hasani (29), Drillon Tejeci (34), Yiber Maloku (90+1).
Referee: Peter Kjaesgarrd-Andersen (Denmark).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Olamide Shodipo (Republic of Ireland under-21).