The Republic of Ireland Under-17 team secured an impressive 4-1 victory over hosts FYR Macedonia in the second game of their Uefa Championships qualifying group in Skopje on Tuesday afternoon.
Tom Mohan's side produced a disciplined and composed performance to move top of Group 10 on goal difference ahead of Sweden, who beat Romania 2-1 in the other game in the group.
Jack Byrne was the Irish hero with a hat-trick, including two first half penalties, with Dan Cleary netting a second-half goal. Tauljant Sulejmanov was the Macedonian goalscorer with a 44th-minute penalty.
The opening penalty came in the 22nd minute when Eoghan Stokes was taken down by goalkeeper Nikola Aleksovski and Byrne stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way from the spot kick. Byrne then added a second from the spot after Lazar Stojkovski handled a Jake Mulraney cross in the 35th minute and once again Byrne converted with aplomb.
The Irish missed a number of chances before handing the hosts a lifeline when they conceded a penalty four minutes into the second half. Sulejmanov fired home from the spot.
Mohan's side weathered a Macedonia storm with Real Madrid youngster Dorian Babunski the focus of the home side's attacks and Cleary calmed the Irish nerves when he headed home from a Mulraney corner in the 63rd minute.
Byrne's brilliant display was rounded up in the last minute when he volleyed home from the edge of the box.
"It was an outstanding individual display by Jack but overall the performance from the whole team was very pleasing," said Mohan.
"The heat was testing but the boys stood up well to the challenge and we created a lot of chances with some very good play. We didn't take enough of those chances and let Macedonia back into it so I was pleased we finished strongly.
"The midfield was very good with Cody Mulhall doing well but overall I felt it was a good team performance.
"We have Romania now on Thursday so we have to look to that. This game is done and dusted and has put us in a good position to qualify for the elite phase but the work isn't finished yet."
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Peter Burke; Robin Dempsey, Dan Cleary, Noe Baba (C), Bobby Moseley, Craig Donnellan, Dean O'Halloran, Cody Mulhall, Jack Byrne, Eoghan Stokes (Cory Galvin 61), Jake Mulraney (Stephen Confrey 73).
FYR MACEDONIA: Aleksovski, Krivanjeva, Ilievski, Stojkovski, Sulejmanov, Shakiri, Nikolovski, Fidanovski (Muric 63), Zajkov (Kostadinov 63), Babunski, Djeljadini (Georgiev 41).