Friday 22 September 2017

Ireland's hopes in tatters as Serbia nick win

Janice Carlin, from Dublin, and Ciara Kennedy, from Derry, show their support at the match. Photo: Arthur Carron
Janice Carlin, from Dublin, and Ciara Kennedy, from Derry, show their support at the match. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ryan Nugent

Ireland's World Cup hopes were dealt a crushing blow as 10-man Serbia sneaked a crucial qualifying victory.

The players delivered an improvement on the nightmare of Tbilisi but it wasn't enough.

It started with a war cry and perhaps an even louder roar for Wes Hoolahan as the devout Irish fans were keenly aware the team would need guts as well as guile to topple Serbia.

After the drivel that was Georgia, the 50,000 or so supporters in Dublin 4 were reaching for memories of previous days of glory. "Remember Shane Long v Germany ... and McAteer," one supporter recalled.

Eimear Desmond, Courtney Carroll and Leah McCarthy, all from Cork, wear the colours on the way to the match. Photo: Arthur Carron
Eimear Desmond, Courtney Carroll and Leah McCarthy, all from Cork, wear the colours on the way to the match. Photo: Arthur Carron

As regular pre-match watering hole Slattery's was getting set for the big one, the 12th man was pining for a new hero ... then Paul McGrath walked by and it was back to the good old days.

Inside, the Aviva Stadium was bouncing. Serbia may not have the same sporting pedigree as the Netherlands, Italy, England or any of the previous scalps, but this was huge.

Despite the pain of Saturday evening, it was still better than sitting at home watching. Brian Begley (26), from Dundalk, Co Louth, said his tickets had been bought in advance.

"When I bought the tickets I didn't know whether they were worth 40 quid or not ... . Usually when they have to show up they do," he added.

And that was so nearly the case when Shane Duffy headed into the back of the net early on, only for it to be ruled offside.

The atmosphere ramped up some more, James McClean threw himself into some crunching tackles, as Stephen Ward and Duffy almost injured each other trying to block a Serbian shot.

The distance and the performance was a long way from Tbilisi.

A second-half goal from Aleksandar Kolarov sucked the atmosphere out of the stands. There was brief hope when Serbia were reduced to 10 men, but despite a late surge it was not to be and Ireland's qualification hopes lie almost in tatters.

Despite the bleak outlook, Greg O'Brien, from Swords, north Dublin, insisted there was some hope for the Boys in Green.

"I just don't think we have the players any more - Serbia are a good team but they were there for the taking tonight," he said.

"We're going to Wales, so we still have a little bit of hope, but we're now relying on Georgia.

"We need Georgia to get a result against Wales," he added.

Irish Independent

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