Belfast Telegraph

An update on Liam Donnelly's career after former Dungannon defender fires Northern Ireland U21s to victory

Northern Ireland began their quest to qualify for the 2019 European U21 Championships with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Estonia.

Ian Baraclough's side snatched the victory courtesy of Liam Donnelly's stoppage-time penalty.

The goal continues what has been a good season for Donnelly, who made his breakthrough to senior football for Dungannon when he was only 15.

The now 21 year-old full-back signed for Hartlepool United last summer and made 31 starts in League Two last season, by far the most league appearances of his young career so far.

There has been one blip this season, when he was sent off in injury-time during Hartlepool's 2-1 defeat to then basement side Leyton Orient after a confrontation with the referee.

But the less said about that the better and after his first international goal, Donnelly's career has taken another step forward.

Estonia took the lead five minutes after the interval as Rauno Sappinen struck in Tallinn.

But Northern Ireland would rally to take the three points.

Sheffield United's highly-rated 17-year-old David Parkhouse marked his Under-21 debut with a goal to draw the visitors level with 15 minutes remaining.

With the game seemingly heading for a draw there was late drama as Mihkel Ainsalu brought down Parkhouse in the box in injury-time, with skipper Donnelly stepping up to convert the penalty and seal the win.

Thrilled Parkhouse said on Twitter: "Proud to make my debut @NorthernIreland U21 with a great win and scoring to top it off. Great performance from the team."

The visitors played in a 3-5-2 formation with wingers Jamal Lewis and Cameron Dummigan looking to get forward.

The best chance of the first half fell to Paul Smyth on the half-time whistle as his effort from just outside the box was well tipped round the post.

Estonia took the lead on 50 minutes. Forward Sappinen found himself one-on-one with Conor McDermott inside the box, cut inside and finished well.

Linfield's Smyth was unlucky not to grab the equaliser with 20 minutes to go as he charged down the keeper. The ball looped up in the air but he couldn't get to the rebound.

The equaliser eventually came on 74 minutes as a long ball into the box was well met by Glenavon's Joel Cooper, who headed across to an unmarked Parkhouse.

Northern Ireland continued to put pressure on the Estonians as substitute Jamie McGonigle went through on goal but had his effort well kept out.

Baraclough's team had to wait until after the 90 minutes when they were awarded a penalty for a blatant push in the box as a corner was floated in from Cooper. Skipper Donnelly went straight for the ball, sending the team and bench into celebration as his penalty went into the top left corner of the net.

Northern Ireland U21s: Mitchell, Dummigan, McDermott, Donnelly, Johnson, Gorman (Cooper 64), Smyth (McGonigle 76), Thompson, Lewis, Dunwoody (Gordon 79), Parkhouse.

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