It was a proud day for Lucan United as Mark Travers became the club’s first senior men’s international while Conor Masterson helped the Under-21s to a big win in Sweden.
Bournemouth goalkeeper Travers was handed his first international cap against Bulgaria, while Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne made a telling cameo from the bench in a 3-1 win.
It was Byrne’s corner that led to Kevin Long putting the Boys in Green make in front, and his delicate chipped pass started the move for James Collins’ clincher late on.
Preston North End’s Alan Browne had put Ireland in front early in the second half before a penalty from Ivelin Popov levelled things up for the visitors, who had lost 4-0 to England on Saturday.
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy made ten personnel changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Switzerland in a crucial Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday, while Conor Hourihane moved to left-back.
The new-look side, featuring debutants Travers and Josh Cullen, imposed themselves from the start and controlled the ball in midfield without creating much of note.
Judge had a header just clear the crossbar and another shot from the edge of the box trickle wide, but it was the away side who looked the more threatening on the counter.
After a dire first half, the second sprang to life as Ronan Curtis’ shot was spilled by Hristo Ivanov, Scott Hogan couldn’t only force the loose ball to Browne, who calmly backheeled into an empty net.
Ireland looked certain to kick on from there but a mistake from Cyrus Christie allowed Bozhidar Kraev in and he was fouled by John Egan, and Popov blasted home an emphatic penalty.
The introduction of Byrne swung the momentum, however, as he teed up Long before picking out Stevens to steer the ball to Collins for a spectacular third.
“It’s only starting to sink in now,” Travers told the Dublin Gazette.
“You come out from the tunnel at the Aviva Stadium – it’s a bit surreal. You just focus on the game from then. Seeing my family in the crowd as well was another unbelievable memory for me.
“If you’d told me this last January, I wouldn’t have believed you. The last six months have been great, making my Premier League debut and now getting my first cap for Ireland.
“It was disappointing to concede – you want that clean sheet on your debut – but it was a good penalty. I went the right way but didn’t manage to get there.
“I didn’t realise [he was Lucan’s first senior cap], but that’s another proud moment. I was there for years as a young lad, so to have that and go down in their history as well is unbelievable.”
Masterson’s late header gave Ireland the lead, bookended by a brace for Troy Parrott, as Stephen Kenny’s Under-21s made it three wins from three in their quest to reach the Euros in 2021.