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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 16 May 2021


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Good evening and welcome to The42‘s live minute-by-minute coverage of Ireland v Belarus — the final warm-up friendly before Martin O’Neill’s side depart for Euro 2016 in France.

A capacity crowd of over 7,000 is expected tonight as Turner’s Cross hosts a senior men’s international for the very first time.

And, much like the rest of the country, it’s scorchio in Cork.

Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

BREAKING NEWS FROM CORK: Harry Arter has left Ireland camp and flown back to England for further treatment on his injury. An FAI spokesman did not definitively rule Arter out of the final 23-man squad at this point, but it now seems highly unlikely that he will feature. That’s a massive blow.

Here’s the latest detail on that Arter news from Ben Blake who is in the Cross this evening:

HARRY ARTER LOOKS set to miss the Euro 2016 finals after leaving the Ireland camp this evening.

The Bournemouth midfielder, who was hoping to be part of Martin O’Neill’s squad for next month’s tournament in France, pulled out of yesterday’s training session at Turner’s Cross with a thigh issue.

He has since had a scan on the injury and the FAI confirmed prior to kick-off in tonight’s friendly against Belarus that Arter has returned home.

With O’Neill naming his final squad later tonight, it appears to open the door for another midfielder, with the likes of Reading’s Stephen Quinn, Darron Gibson of Everton and Arter’s clubmate Eunan O’Kane all possible replacements.

TEAM NEWS: The Ireland team is in, and Martin O’Neill has made 11 changes from the side which started against the Netherlands last Friday night.

With Harry Arter out, can Darron Gibson stake a claim for that last midfield place? What a remarkable return that would be.

Ireland: Given; Christie, Keogh, Clark, Ward; Meyler, Gibson, Hendrick, McClean, McGeady; Murphy.

Here’s how the visitors will line out:

BELARUS: Chernik, Martynovich, Polyakov, Sivakov, Kisliak, Korzun, Stasevich, Hardzeichuk, Valadzko, Hleb, Yanush.

Supporters welcome the Republic of Ireland team bus Supporters welcome the Ireland team to Turner's Cross Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ireland supporters Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kevin Kilbane and Denis Irwin with Robbie Keane and Robbie Brady Kevin Kilbane and Denis Irwin chat with Robbie Keane and Robbie Brady. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A quick reminder of how things will work this evening.

Martin O’Neill has until 11pm to submit his final 23-man squad to Uefa and so, after the final whistle at Turner’s Cross, he will make any final adjustments and send off the list. We’ll have full details of that as soon as we get it.

Of course, the majority of places on the plane have already been decided, but there are a handful of TBCs dotted throughout the list.

Paul Fennessy takes a look at five players who might be feeling a little bit anxious at the moment here >

Another of the big talking points over the last 24 hours has been the fitness of Ireland’s leading goalscorer Robbie Keane. He has been ruled out of this evening’s game with a calf strain, and it has led to some speculation that he could be in danger of missing out of the final squad.

Earlier today, we asked you if he should travel and with more than 5,000 of you responding so far, 46% believe that his experience means that he should travel as part of the 23 whether he’s fit or not.

Have your say here >

Martin O’Neill has just been speaking to Setanta with the latest on Harry Arter’s condition:

I’ll be speaking to him later on this evening.

It’s an injury that might clear up in time but we don’t want to be carrying a lot of players with injuries into the competition.

We can afford to bring one or two, but not a lot.

A quick word on tonight’s opposition. Belarus are currently ranked 77th in the world and while you might not recognise all of the names on their team-sheet, you should certainly be familiar with the former Arsenal and Barcelona star Alex Hleb.

Alyaksandr Khatskevich’s men were beaten 3-0 by Northern Ireland in Windsor Park on Friday night so you’d hope — hope – that Ireland can tune up with a relatively straightforward win here.

It’s a packed house, that’s for sure:


Looks like Ireland have lined out with Gibson sitting in front of the back four, Meyler and Hendrick in front of him, and McClean and McGeady out wide behind Murphy… so a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1, whatever you’re having yourself.


Great chance! Stephen Ward fizzes in a cross from the left and Ciaran Clark has a free header but just can’t get a clean connection. He wasn’t more than six yards out but couldn’t direct the ball on target.


Nice link play between McClean, Ward and Meyler on the left and McClean puts in a little injection of pace to try to open up the Belarus defence. Aiden McGeady tries to play in Ward behind but he’s flagged offside — incorrectly, too, he was a yard on.


Shay Given gets a touch as Belarus overhit a long ball into his arms. It might not be his busiest night tonight.


Hendrick’s touch is a little bit underhit and it leaves Ciaran Clark short, where he’s clobbered by Korzun. It’s an Ireland free but we could do without the rough stuff, lads, thanks very much.


James McClean is out to fight fire with fire. He thunders through Polyakov — cleanly — and wins the ball. No such thing as a friendly in McClean’s eyes.


James McClean with Mikita Korzun James McClean with Mikita Korzun Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ciaran Clark and Mikhail Sivako Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO


Little bit loose from McClean who gives away possession in midfield and allows Belarus to mount their first meaningful attack. A cross to the back post is nodded behind by Ward, who is taking no chances with Polyakov on the mooch behind him.


Little bit ragged again from Gibson in midfield as he gives away possession but the ball bobbles harmlessly back to Given before Belarus can do any damage.

Flag 20Mins

GOAL FOR BELARUS! Ireland 0-1 Belarus (Hardzeichuk, 20′)

My word, what a strike that is! Belarus lead in the Cross – and it was Cork native David Meyler who gave away the ball that allowed them to start their counter-attack.

Stasevich plays a fine ball across the face of goal and picks out Hardzeichuk who takes a touch to come back inside, and then curls a right-footed shot beyond the diving Given.

Sweet strike. This just got interesting.


Chance here now for Ireland as Christie picks up the ball on the right wing and drives inside, where he’s clipped by Polyakov and brought down.

McClean to hit…


And he hits it straight into the wall! Meyler has a chance, inadvertently controlling the rebound off the referee before stinging Chernik’s palms from 20 yards. Straight at him though.


More Irish mistakes as Gibson’s pass leaves Hendrick in all sorts of trouble, and Belarus break. Christie is back quickly enough to get a toe in and dispossess Stasevich, but then loses it just as quickly as Yanush slides in on him.

Eventually, Gibson hoofs clear.


Darryl Murphy has to do better! Ireland have the numbers to punish Belarus and create a real chance but his touch is loose and he essentially runs straight into Sivakov who gratefully gathers possession and clear. McGeady was free on his shoulder there if only he’d shown a bit more composure.


A little bit better from Ireland but they’re still not testing Chernik in the Belarus goal. Ward plays McGeady in in a central position but Hleb nicks it away. Christie has another chance but Sivakov intercepts and concedes the corner.


GREAT CHANCE FOR BELARUS! That was very nearly 2-0 to the visitors! McGeady completely switches off and doesn’t track the run of Volodko at all. He drills a shot but fortunately for Ireland, Given is equal to it and palms it away.

What’s going on with Ireland here?


Another snifter for the Belarussians as Cyrus Christie is dragged out of position and leaves the space for a long ball over his head. Stasevich gets there before it goes out of play but, mercifully, he can’t do much more than steer it into Given’s hands.


No additional time at the end of this first half. Just as well really, Ireland have been poor.


Good corner by McGeady, forcing Chernik to come and punch clear decisively. Testing delivery though.


Oh to be a fly on the wall of the Irish dressing room at half-time — not that the players will need to be told that that was nowhere near good enough.

What will Martin O’Neill change? Who is he willing to risk might be a more appropriate question…


SECOND HALF: No changes for Ireland yet.


YOU HAVE TO SCORE, MURPH! Twenty-five seconds into the second half and Daryl Murphy wastes a glorious chance. McGeady gets isolated one-on-one with Volodko, throws the step over, and sends over a cross. Murphy beats Polyakov to the ball but can’t get over it and send his header over the bar. Ack.


Little bit pedestrian from Ireland as Belarus invite them on. Eventually, McGeady is wrestled off the ball by Korzun and Ireland have a free in. Gibson overhits it and we’re back to square one.


Conversation here at The42 HQ has drifted to the fast-food offerings in the vicinity of Turner’s Cross.

Back on the pitch, it’s better by Ireland as Cyrus Christie holds off three Belarus defenders and puts up a cross. Again, it’s Clark who is furthest forward but he can’t get a huge amount of power on the header and Chernik deals with it comfortably.


Meyler clatters Polyakov as he clears the ball. At least there’s a bit more intent to Ireland’s play at the start of the second half.


Ward and McClean do their best to fashion a chance, and when Ward crosses from the left, it’s just too high for McGeady who is arriving at the back post. Maybe a slight nudge from Stasevich there but no real appeal from any Irish player.


Real tester from McClean who sends a corner in on top of Chernik, who has the late evening sun in his eyes. The Belarus keeper can only punch it straight up in the air and back over his bar for another corner.


CHANCE! Oooooh, that was close! McGeady’s corner is brilliant and Clark’s header is blocked, and then Hendrick’s drive is stopped by Chernik at his near post. Much better.


Another half-chance and again, it’s Ciaran Clark who has the header. Murphy jumps just in front of him and may have just distracted him, and Clark puts the header wide at the back post.


This is an all-out siege now as Meyler’s shot is deflected behind for a corner. Ireland really on the front foot.

Flag 63Mins

GOAL FOR BELARUS! Ireland 0-2 Belarus (Volodko, 63′)

From bad to worse.

Ireland might have had the upper hand in this second half but there’s no glossing over the ugly truth now — they’re 2-0 down at home to Belarus. Somewhere out there, you’d suspect that Zlatan, de Bruyne and De Rossi are having a right old laugh at our expense.

Cyrus Christie completely forgets how to be a defender and gets caught badly at a throw in. Volodko plays a one-two with Yanush and then cuts back inside, his shot clipping the despairing tackle of Richard Keogh and trickling inside Given’s post.



Substitutions: Weso, Long and Forde on; Murphy, Gibson and Given make way.


I’m really not quite sure why you bring on Shane Long here for the last 20 minutes. It just seems to be asking for trouble.

Flag 72Mins

GOAL FOR IRELAND! Ireland 1-2 Belarus (Ward, 72′)

Can we all agree that just because Shane Long has played a crucial part in this goal, it does not make my most recent update in any way less true – ok?

Ireland have a goal back and it’s largely down to Long’s hustle and bustle up top. Christie’s long throw is headed across goal by Kislyak and Long takes two glorious touches to play into Ward’s path. He drills his shot past Chernik and, arguably for the first time tonight, Ireland look like a football team.


Much better as McClean releases Long down the left and he gets his shot on target, forcing the save from Chernik.

Better. So much better. Although that wouldn’t be hard.


Substitutes: Callum O’Dowda and Eunan O’Kane are on; McGeady and Meyler make way.


CHANCE! Ireland are flooding men forward now in search of an equaliser and when Christie’s cross is headed clear, it falls to Eunan O’Kane on the edge of the box. He rushes his shot though and slices it high and wide.


Good running by O’Dowda and he wins the free. Hoolahan’s delivery is easily cleared though.


Hoolahan tries to dink the ball in behind for Shane Long running in behind, but Wes puts too much on it and runs out for a goal kick before Long can get to it.


Ireland free kick in dangerous position as McGoldrick is brought down. Both McGoldrick and Hoolahan stand over it, but when the former takes it, it hits the bottom of the wall. Harmless stuff.


O’Dowda decides to take it on himself and weaves his way into the box, but he’s forced too wide before he can shoot and the moment fizzles out. Nice little spark from the youngster there.


Ciaran Clark is named man of the match. Presumably that excludes a half-dozen of the Belarus team.


OOOOOH! McGoldrick sends in a rocket but it takes a deflection and zips wide. Chernik looked a little bit worried but it was a good bit wide in the end.


Four additional minutes to be played.


Wes Hoolahan sprays a Hollywood pass all over 35 yards onto David McGoldrick’s toe, a 34-year-old reminding us that not everything about Irish football is doom and gloom. A defender gets enough of a block in to take the sting out of it though, and it’s easy for Chernik.


OOOH! Late, late chance as Hoolahan plays in O’Kane on the right but Clark can’t hit the target.

No point sugarcoating it, that’s a hugely disappointing send-off ahead of the Euros.

Now it’s time for Martin O’Neill to make those last few decisions and pick his 23-man squad. On the basis of tonight’s performance, there weren’t too many who put their hands up for inclusion — but injuries and other considerations might force the manager’s hand.

That’s it as far as our liveblog is concerned but stay with us across the evening for more reaction and analysis, as well as all of the news on that Ireland 23 as soon as we get it.

Thanks for reading. See yiz in France.

About the author:

Niall Kelly