Tuesday 21 November 2017

Doolin pride as spirited troops go down fighting


Gareth Maher

THERE was no dream finish for the Ireland U-19s as they missed out to Serbia on clinching a place at this summer's European Championships.

THERE was no dream finish for the Ireland U-19s as they missed out to Serbia on clinching a place at this summer's European Championships.

Paul Doolin's side had already drawn with both Switzerland and Slovakia, so they needed to beat the host nation of these Elite Phase qualifiers and hope that the Swiss did not win.

While they got a favour from the other game – Slovakia winning 2-0 – they could not edge past Serbia, who ended up topping Group 2. However, Doolin was full of praise for his players.

"We've had a fantastic tournament and to go through our season unbeaten is brilliant," said Doolin. "I'm delighted for the players, maybe they deserved a bit more, but that's football.

"To come out here and play in a group with Serbia, Slovakia and Switzerland, it's not easy. Okay, we didn't get a win, but we played well in all three games."

There was an expectation on Serbia to sweep past Ireland and collect the three points, but they cautiously went about that task with the knowledge that any error could end their qualification hopes.

The hosts did dominate possession and continually pushed Ireland back into their own half, but finding a breakthrough became increasingly difficult as the Irish defence stood firm.

Even when Serbia did register attempts on goal, they never troubled 'keeper Ian Lawlor, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic heading over and then Uros Djurdjevic firing wide.

While Doolin's team didn't create much themselves, they did a superb job in disrupting the rhythm of the game that Serbia were trying to play. It was inevitable that that the hosts would crank up the pressure as the game wore on.

Andrija Lukovic went close with a free-kick before Lawlor was called on to tip over a shot from substitute Milan Vojvodic.

Then on 55 minutes, captain Pierce Sweeney produced a goal-saving block when he rushed back to deny Marko Pavlovski.

The waves of Serbian attacks kept on coming and they should have scored on 74 minutes when Aleksandar Mitrovic found himself free in the Ireland box, but he headed straight at Lawlor.

Left-back Slobodan Urosevic also went close, but Serbia collected the point they needed to qualify thanks to Slovakia's victory. For Ireland, it was the end of the journey.

IRELAND – Lawlor; Long, Sweeney, Smith, Griffin; Miele, Kavanagh (Gallagher 58); Hayhurst (McEvoy 69), Sadlier (Maguire 76), Garmston; Byrne.

SERBIA – Rajkovic; Cavric (Vojvodic 24), Veljkovic, Filipovic, Urosevic; Maksimovic, Milinkovic-Savic; Lukovic, Pavlovski (Antic 90), Djurdjevic (Ozegovic 71); Mitrovic.

Ref – N Dunauskas (LTU).

Irish Independent

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