Academy striker Danny Purdy has helped fire the Republic of Ireland through to the Elite Round of qualifying for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship with a match to spare.

Purdy, who joined the Hammers from Dublin-based St Kevin's Boys in the summer, scored a dramatic winner in Ireland's opening first phase Group 6 qualifier against hosts Bulgaria in Dobrich.

The 16-year-old forward struck in the third-minute of added-time after Bulgaria's Nedelev had levelled the score at 1-1 in the 80th and final minute of normal time.

Purdy was in the starting lineup again as the Irish youngsters stole another late victory in their second group fixture against Latvia in Albena on Tuesday. Millwall's Aiden O'Brien, who replaced Purdy with three minutes remaining, netted the only goal of the game in the 89th minute.

Sean McCaffrey's squad will take on Sweden in their third and final group fixture in Albena on Friday. The Swedes, who beat Latvia and drew with Bulgaria in their opening two matches, need just a point to join the Irish in the Elite Round.

A total of 28 nations will compete in the Elite Round, which will be held in March 2010, with the likes of Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland having already qualified. The seven group winners at that stage will join hosts Liechtenstein in the finals next May.