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Belarus spoil Ireland's Euro 2016 send-off in Cork

The Boys in Green went down 2-1 at Turner’s Cross tonight.

The Irish players look dejected after conceding a goal.
The Irish players look dejected after conceding a goal.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ben Blake reports from Turner’s Cross

Ireland 1

Belarus 2

IRELAND’S FINAL GAME before Euro 2016 ended in a surprise defeat to Belarus at a sun-kissed Turner’s Cross tonight.

A sell-out crowd of 7,200 turned out for the first senior international to be held at the ground for 28 years but watched on as the team ranked 77th in the world sealed an unlikely victory.

Mikhail Gordeichuk and Maksim Valadzko found the back of the net for the Belarusians, while Stephen Ward pulled one back as Ireland put in an improved second half performance after a lacklustre one in the first.

The Ireland manager opted to put out a completely different starting XI to the one which drew 1-1 with the Netherlands on Friday night in order to give players some needed game-time and one last chance to stake a claim in his final 23.

The Republic of Ireland and Belarus teams line up The teams line out at Turner's Cross. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Setting up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with local lad David Meyler sitting alongside Darron Gibson in front of the back four, Jeff Hendrick and wingers James McClean and Aiden McGeady were tasked with supporting lone striker Daryl Murphy.

Ireland began brightly with much of the good play early on coming down Ireland’s left flank, and that’s where the first half-chance was created on five minutes when Ciaran Clark played a ball forward and continued his run.

The Aston Villa defender attempted to latch onto the end of Ward’s cross but couldn’t get enough on the glancing header.

Against the run of play somewhat, the visitors took the lead with a superbly-struck hit from 25 yards. Belarus broke in numbers and Gordeichuk received possession before curling the ball into the top corner past the helpless Shay Given.

Ireland recorded a shot on goal with Meyler’s shot stinging hands of Siarhei Chernik after McClean’s free-kick had struck the wall, but it was the visitors who grew in confidence after the first goal.

Daryl Murphy was gifted possession and the chance to score his first senior international goal on the 21st attempt, but a heavy touch saw the chance go begging.

Valadzko then forced Given into a fingertip save after cutting inside onto his right.

Mikhail Hardzeichuk scores his side's first goal Belarus went in front in the first half. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

After a pretty pedestrian first 45 minutes, Ireland upped the tempo after the break and created several decent chances at the beginning of the second half. First, McGeady picked out Murphy, but he couldn’t keep his header down.

Minutes later, a great run by Christie ended with Clark heading into the hands of Chernik. And Clark came close again from a corner but the Belarus keeper kept out his header and the follow-up from Hendrick.

And Ireland found themselves two goals down on 63 minutes. Valadzko went racing down the left and checked inside past Christie to strike at goal. The effort took a deflection off Richard Keogh on the way in with Given rooted to the spot.

Spectators look on in the evening sunshine Ireland fans watch on. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

O’Neill introduced Shane Long and the former Cork City man, who got a warm reception from the crowd, had an immediate impact. A throw-in was half-cleared as far as the Southampton striker, who laid off for Ward to blast into the bottom corner.

McClean, Eunan O’Kane and David McGoldrick all had efforts as Ireland piled on the pressure late on and 21-year-old Callum O’Dowda impressed after making his senior debut as a substitute but an equaliser wasn’t to come.

O’Neill will soon forget about the result as he must now put the final touches to his 23-man squad for Euro 2016, which is due at 11pm tonight.

IRELAND: Shay Given (David Forde 68); Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward; David Meyler (Eunan O’Kane 75), Darron Gibson (Wes Hoolahan 67), Jeff Hendrick, James McClean (David McGoldrick), Aiden McGeady (Callum O’Dowda 75); Daryl Murphy (Shane Long 67).

BELARUS: Siarhei Chernik, Alexander Martynovich, Dzianis Paliakov, Mikita Korzun, Ihar Stasevich (Pavel Niakhaichyk 90), Aliaksandr Hleb, (Siergei Krivets 90), Mikhail Gordeichuk (Siarhei Palitsevich 78), Siarhei Kisliak, Maksim Valadzko, Mikhail Sivakov, Mikalai Yanush.

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Ben Blake

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