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IRISH PAIR STAR IN AFRICA

Sunderlands Brendon McGill and Thomas Butler are on their way home after starring for the Republic of Ireland in the Under-17 Meridian Cup in the heat of South Africa

Brian Kerrs Irish side started their group successfully, sinking the host country 2-1, courtesy of a double from Newcastles David McMahon. McGill, who went on to start all three of Irelands matches in the Cape, came close to adding to the score but volleyed inches over the bar. He was replaced by club-mate Butler for the last 21 minutes.Butler was also a sub, getting 17 minutes, when Ireland lost 3-1 to a superb Spanish side in their second match, when McMahon was again on target.In their final match, Ireland, needing a win to reach the semi-finals, stormed in front against Egypt thanks to a magnificent effort from McGill. Liam Miller did the spadework, powering through four tackles before setting up the Sunderland youngster to finish well from 12 yards out.Butler played the whole game in midfield, but Ireland came unstuck controversially as Egypt equalised from a throw taken when Kerrs lads had kicked the ball out to allow treatment to an injured player.Coach Kerr, though disappointed to exit the prestigious youth event, said: "I was so proud of all the players, who were magnificent throughout the competition."