Two late sucker punches end hopes for Irish under-21 side

Montenegro claim the points in Tallaght despite early goal from Matt Doherty

The Montenegro under-21 side celebrate after their 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The Montenegro under-21 side celebrate after their 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland at Tallaght Stadium. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 18:26

Republic of Ireland U21 1 Montenegro U21 2: Noel King’s under-21 side are out of European Championship qualification contention with one game left after allowing a half-time lead slip against Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium.

Having led through Matt Doherty’s thumping 11th-minute header, the Irish should have added more before conceding twice in three second-half minutes in the group six encounter.

Knowing victory yesterday was essential to keep alive their hopes of securing a play-off spot for next year’s Uefa finals, Ireland will instead complete the campaign in September away to Germany with only pride to play for.

All was going to plan in Tallaght until the second-half implosion.

When Seán Murray’s fierce shot deflected wide, the resulting corner from Anthony Forde was delivered onto the head of unmarked Doherty, who found the top corner.

The impressive Jack Grealish almost doubled the lead nine minutes before the interval but dragged his shot wide.

More chances flowed for the Irish after the break, particularly Shane Duffy’s 70th-minute header which goalkeeper Danijel Petkovic batted away, but Montenegro always posed a threat on the break.

Fifteen minutes from full-time, senior international Luka Djordjevic broke from the half-way line and was allowed race unchallenged to the edge of the box before beating Ireland goalkeeper Seán McDermott with a right-foot shot into the bottom corner.

It got worse for Ireland two minutes later when substitute Nemanja Gojacanin floated a cross to the far post where Stefan Mugoša powered his downward header into the far corner.

There was scant fightback from the Irish for an equaliser in the closing stages, with the game and their qualification prospects fading out on a whimper. To compound matters, Seán McGinty picked up a second booking in the last minute to incur his second red card at this level within the last year.

“It was a shock to concede those two goals,” said King afterwards. “Our first-half performance was fantastic but the finishing let us down.

“I’m not going to blame anyone for what happened but, at this level, not putting away chances can be costly.”

Defeat for Ireland, coupled with victories for group rivals Montenegro and Romania, sunk King’s side into fourth place. That’s where they may finish unless an unlikely victory on German soil in September is secured.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U21: S McDermott (Sandnes Ulf); M Doherty (Wolves), J Egan (Southend Utd) S Duffy (Yeovil Town), S McGinty (Sheffield Utd); J Hendrick (Derby County), C Smith (Gillingham); J Grealish (Notts County), S Murray (Watford), A Forde (Wolves); A O’Brien (Millwall). Subs: L McAlinden (Wolves) for O’Brien, M Drennan (Portsmouth) for Murray (both 79 mins), K McEvoy (Tottenham Hotspur) for Forde (82 mins)

MONTENEGRO U21: D Petkovic; M Vukcevic, E Alic, M Bakrac, I Bogdanovic; N Kosovic, B Jankovic, D Zoric (N Gojacanin 46 mins); L Dordevic, S Mugoša , M Bakic? (R Radunovic 90 mins).

REFEREE: N Hanni (Sui)

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