A Heather Payne doubled helped Ireland to a 4-0 win over Hungary in their UEFA Women’s European Under-19 Championship Elite Round opener in Spain.
Dave Connell’s side struggled for chances in the opening half-hour, but took the lead on 30 minutes through Heather Payne from the penalty spot.
Payne cut in from the right wing and ghosted past numerous Hungarian defenders before being brought down in the box by Eszter Kovacs.
Payne stepped up to give Ireland the lead by sending goalkeeper Anna Terestyenyi the wrong way.
Ireland doubled their lead six minutes later, Lucia Lobato cut in from the left wing, her cross caused havoc in the six-yard box, with Terestyenyi and Rahel Varadi both struggling to keep it out of the net, before Varadi turned into her own net.
The three points were assured with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. Niamh Reynolds cross was dropped by Terestyenyi with Payne converting from close range.
Substitute Carla McManus took advantage of some sloppy Hungarian defending in additional time to score from inside the area.
“We know from past experiences that it can be difficult to qualify if you don’t get anything out of the first game” explained Head Coach Dave Connell.
“Today’s win puts us in a good position. I’m delighted with the three points and the clean sheet.”
Connell admitted he was delighted with the goal-scoring performance of Carla McManus in her 10 minutes on the pitch.
“I love a player with a point to prove. She came on and worked her own goal, by robbing the ball and putting it into the back of the net. We know it’s going to take the 20-players to qualify.”
Ireland return to Elite Round action on Saturday afternoon against Serbia.
Hungary: Anna Terestyenyi; Antonia Andre (Viktoria Bodai 46), Rahel Varadi, Laura Kovacs (capt), Alexandra Gyorik; Virag Nagy, Lily Farkas (Vivien Pintyre 71), Eszter Kovacs; Sara Pusztai, Brigitta Pulins, Fanni Vachter (Dora Dorner 71).
Republic of Ireland: Rachael Kelly; Rachel Baynes (Aoife Slattery 64), Sadhbh Doyle, Roisin McGovern, Lucia Lobato; Megan Mackey (capt), Tiegan Ruddy (Carla McManus 80), Niamh Reynolds; Heather Payne, Alannah McEvoy (Chloe Singleton 80), Michelle O’Driscoll (Kelly Brady 55).
Referee: Graziella Pirriatore (ITA).