By Jay Mwamba
A day after Robbie Keane watched them exact a measure of vengeance on an old foe, Team Ireland crushed Mexico 6-1 at Pier 40 last weekend to storm into the 2010 Copa NYC semi-finals.
The high scoring Irishmen, losing finalists last year when they succumbed 4-1 to Albania, will meet Jamaica, another of their 2009 opponents, in the last four at Flushing Meadows Park this Saturday (visit www.copanyc.us for kick off time).
Thrashed 5-2 by Ireland in the quarterfinals 12 months ago, Jamaica edged Greece 3-2 to secure a rematch with the Irish. In group play last weekend, Jamaica beat Albania 1-0, tied 0-0 with the USA and beat Poland 2-0.
"They are probably favorites with their deep squad but on the day we will try our best," Irish manager Paul "Doc" Doherty said of the Caribbean side. "We hope we have learned from our loss in the final last year."
In the other semi-final, Poland, 4-2 winners over England in the last eight, will meet Argentina, who pipped Haiti 3-0 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
The Copa NYC final is scheduled for Sunday, also at Flushing Meadows and will be televised live on NYC TV Life [Ch. 25].
Ireland's six-goal outburst against Mexico brought their two-day haul to 15 from four games.
Sean Purcell opened the scoring [12th] from a harmless looking effort some 22 yards out that bamboozled a Mexican defender and goalkeeper Javier Luis.
Save for an error at the back - Declan Reilly's weak header to his goalie brother Alan that gifted Leo Sosa the equalizer [31st] - Ireland bossed the action.
Confirmation of this came in the form of back-to-back goals by Gavin O'Keefe and substitute Billy Hole that made it 3-1 before the interval. The latter tapped in his own close range rebound [44th] while the former beat Luis with a powerful header off an Austin Friel center [43rd].
On resumption, skipper Conor Hunter latched onto a long ball from defensive kingpin Allan "Ginger" O'Hara to slam in Ireland's fourth goal and his third of the tournament [53rd].
Hole then pounced on another rebound - this time after Luis had parried away O'Hara's penalty awarded for a foul on Hunter [65th] -- to make it 5-1.
Number six against a Mexican side now reduced to ten men came on the stroke of full time, courtesy of Ronan O'Boyle. He nodded in Kevin McPhillips's cross. Manager Doherty was effusive in his praise for the team.
"I'm very proud of the lads. They were very professional, played a very disciplined game and finished well," the boss said.
"The key to our success is that we played well defensively," Doherty added, also noting the experience of player-coach Kevin Grogan.
Said Hunter, Ireland's captain courageous who's been playing on a badly bruised left ankle: "We've got a good squad and have great belief."
In between his own scoring exploits for touring Tottenham Hotspurs, Republic of Ireland star Robbie Keane dropped by Pier 40 on a sultry Saturday to catch the last 15 minutes of the Ireland-France group match.
Keane was signing autographs when Hunter completed his brace in Ireland's 3-1 romp. O'Hara [penalty] was the other scorer, with Christopher Happi the French marksman.
"Nice to get a little revenge back on them, isn't it?" Keane smiled when asked what he thought of Team Ireland's victory.
The French beat Ireland 3-2 in the 2009 tournament, but more significantly, the Irish squad was eager to beat the French as payback for Ireland's controversial World Cup qualifying loss last fall.
The day after watching that happen, Keane scored in Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Portugal's Sporting Lisbon at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. He'd also connected last week in a 2-1 decision over their MLS hosts the Red Bull.
Earlier, Ireland had gotten off to a flying start in the 22-nation Copa NYC, demolishing Japan 4-0 on goals by Kurt Smith [two], the 26 year-old O'Hara and Friel.
Their second game was a 2-2 thriller with Haiti, whose Reginald Joseph drew first blood.
Matt Murphy and O'Keefe turned it around in Ireland's favor but the aptly named Lively Joseph earned the Haitians a valuable point after they'd opened their campaign with a 1-0 setback to the French.
The Irish result over France saw them top the group and they advanced to the quarterfinals with Haiti who trounced Japan 5-1.
Cup holders Albania, meanwhile, bowed out without winning a game. They lost 1-0 to Jamaica, 2-0 to Polonia and 5-0 to USA.