By Dan Harrison
Michael Drennan struck a terrific hat-trick as Republic of Ireland U19s kicked off their European Championships Qualifying Round campaign in style with a 5-2 win over Luxembourg.
The Villa hotshot inspired the boys in green to an emphatic win over the host nation in the first game of the four-team qualification group mini-tournament.
The clash in Hesperange on Thursday got off to a perfect start for Drennan, who reached Bradley Garmston's cross to score from six yards with just eight minutes on the clock.
The Kilkenny-born striker then added a second in the 21st minute.
After good work from Sam Byrne down the right hand side, Garmston played a cutback to Drennan who controlled and produced an acrobatic finish.
Watford's Tommy Hoban made it 3-0 on 27 minutes with a diving header.
Luxembourg pulled one back just before the break through Christopher Pereira but Byrne scored from close range on 55 minutes to make it 4-1 to Ireland.
Milos Todorovic responded for Luxembourg in the 78th minute when Ireland failed to deal with a set piece.
But Villa academy ace Drennan was the star of the show and he completed his hat-trick 10 minutes from time with a stunning 30-yard free-kick.
Ireland, who also have Villa's Jack Grealish in their squad, are hoping to reach the Elite Qualifying spots by finishing in the top two in Group 5.
They face FYR Macedonia in Hesperange on Saturday before finishing up with Tuesday's huge encounter against Germany in Grevenmacher.
The Germans are top on goal difference after winning 5-0 against FYR Macedonia in Thursday's other Group 5 fixture.
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