A SUPER strike by Romania's Martin Madalin dealt the Republic of Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the 2015 European U21 Championship finals a major blow yesterday.
Harry McCue's team suffered a disappointing 1-0 home loss to the visiting Romanians at the Showgrounds in Sligo in the vital Uefa qualifier.
Ireland went into the game confident of firmly establishing themselves in second place in Group Six behind leaders and favourites Germany after recording a 0-0 draw against the Romanians in Piatra Neamt last Friday.
Ireland started well, but failed to turn their early domination into goals and were undone in the second-half when Madalin grabbed a spectacular winner.
The home side's first effort of note came in the ninth minute when Frankie Sutherland's strike from distance was well-saved by 'keeper Laurentiu Branescu.
The Irish had a goal ruled out in the 19th minute when Sean McGinty headed to the net from an Anthony Forde corner, but Aiden O'Brien was adjudged to be in an offside position.
O'Brien got a decent strike away in the 43rd minute, but once again Branescu saved well.
After the break, Romania looked a more dangerous outfit and in the 50th minute Irish 'keeper Aaron McCarey made his first save, keeping out a strike from Stefan Popescu.
Romania took control of the game in the 54th minute when Madalin fired home spectacularly from 30 yards.
Ireland had a number of half chances, but the best opportunity fell to substitute Will Hayhurst in the 89th minute when he got his head to an Anthony Forde free-kick, only for it to fly tamely wide from six yards out.
Romania's win – a first in four attempts in the group – saw them leapfrog their hosts into third place.
Ireland, who have now collected only four points from as many games, have a month to stew on a missed opportunity as they prepare for the arrival of the Faroe Islands and their trip to Montenegro in November.