CAMERON Brannagan’s first-half strike got Oxford United’s pre-season tour to Ireland off to a winning start against Portmarnock AFC.

About 500 travelling supporters got their first glimpse of five summer signings, but Karl Robinson’s side had to settle for a narrow victory against the Leinster Senior League side.

The only goal of the game came from Brannagan’s neat finish midway through the first half, with United’s changed side after the break unable to secure a more comfortable victory.

The friendly was switched at short notice to Tolka Park due to Portmarnock’s Paddy’s Hill ground suffering amid a hosepipe ban.

Shelbourne's playing surface was in better condition but remained very firm and with Rob Hall nursing a minor knee issue, the winger was not risked.

Josh Ruffels fizzed a shot just wide, but Portmarnock’s amateurs equipped themselves well early on.

It took 20 minutes for United to test goalkeeper Brian Kane, who parried well to deny Ruffels and Jon Obika’s rebound was diverted wide by a last-ditch tackle.

Obika was involved when the opening goal arrived two minutes later, when the striker squared for Brannagan to slot home from eight yards.

The midfielder came close to a second goal of the night, but from 25 yards his shot was just off target.

Obika glanced a header wide from the impressive Tony McMahon’s cross, before Simon Eastwood was called into action for the first time when he saved a bouncing effort from Raoul Lassoued.

Half-time brought nine changes for the U’s, with only youngsters Malachi Napa and Armani Little continuing.

Teenage striker Owen James forced a smart save from substitute goalkeeper Eric Gonzalez early in the half, while John Mousinho headed a Luke Garbutt free-kick on to the roof of the net.

Portmarnock, who made changes steadily through the half, enjoyed a good spell.

They did not test Scott Shearer in United’s goal until the 90th minute, when he denied Gary Mortimer, who had raced clear on the counter-attack.

United's tour continues tomorrow night, with a friendly at Longford Town.

United 1st half: Eastwood, McMahon, Dickie, Raglan, Long, Ruffels, Brannagan, Baptiste, Little, Napa, Obika.

United 2nd half: Shearer, Norman, Nelson, Mousinho, Garbutt, Carroll, Carruthers, Little, Henry, Napa, James.