Repeat agony for Irish as outside events shatter Euro dreams
Ireland U-17 4
Latvia U-17 1
Published 29/03/2011 | 05:00
Ireland's U-17s were three minutes away from securing a place at the European Championship finals after beating Latvia in their final game of the elite qualifiers yesterday, only for a goal in the group's other game to break their hearts.
Needing Denmark and Greece to finish level, Ireland seemed destined to take their place at the finals in Serbia when that game entered stoppage-time scoreless.
With the Irish players waiting anxiously on the Agii-Theodori Stadium pitch at the end of their game for the final whistle to emerge from Komotini, the worst possible news was relayed: Denmark had netted a last-gasp winner to clinch the top spot and qualification.
It was the second year in a row that Ireland had been denied a place in the U-17 finals in such fashion, after last season's group endured a similar experience at the elite phase, also played in Greece.
Earlier, Philip Roberts grabbed Ireland a 10th-minute lead and despite Latvia equalising nine minutes later, the Arsenal striker scored again on 55 minutes to make it 2-1.
Winger Bradley Garmston added two more goals on 69 and 75 minutes to complete the scoring.
Ireland head coach John Morling spoke of how triumph soon turned to despair.
"Our game finished a couple of minutes before the other game and the boys were devastated to hear that Denmark had scored so late to deny them of their place," Morling said.
"The team have been in fantastic spirits all week and their professional attitude on and off the pitch has maybe been overshadowed by the unlucky break from the other game today."
Ireland -- J Coll (Man Utd); J Kavanagh (Ringmahon), T Hoban (Watford), S Smith (Arsenal), S Kavanagh (Belvedere); P George (Celtic), M Hyland (Southend United), D Lenihan (Belvedere), K McEvoy (Spurs); B Garmston (West Brom), P Roberts (Arsenal). Subs: P Sweeney (Belvedere) for Smith (30), L Gallagher (Cherry Orchard) for Hyland (h-t), S Byrne (St Joseph's Boys) for Roberts (66).