Germany too strong but King hails U-21s' 'encouraging' performance
Germany U-21 2 Ireland U-21 0
Noel King was looking on the bright side last night after defeat to Germany.
It wasn't anything like the 6-0 hammering by the same opposition in Tallaght four weeks ago and Ireland ended the campaign in third spot. Defeat to Israel last Thursday ended any lingering hope of Ireland clinching a play-off.
In the concluding game against the group winner in Heidenheim, King (pictured) gave League of Ireland gems Ronan Hale and Jamie McGrath their first U-21 starts. McGrath almost helped Ireland to an unlikely lead after just eight minutes.
The Dundalk attacker found captain Josh Cullen in a central position and his low effort was only parried by 'keeper Moritz Nicolas. Ronan Hale was quickest to react only to be flagged for offside.
Huddersfield Town's Abdelhamid Sabiri hit the bar with an audacious effort from 30 yards before his side took the lead with the next attack.
Marcel Hartel beat two Ireland defenders before releasing the ball to Ochs and he saw his low cross tapped home by Jani Serra five yards out.
Ireland responded well and almost equalised in the 35th minute as Jordan Shipley's left-sided set-piece almost found Ryan Sweeney but Felix Uduokhai somehow headed clear.
It was 2-0 six minutes before the break thanks to a moment of excellence from Levin Oztunali.
After patient build-up play, the Mainz attacker turned onto his left foot just outside the area and found the top corner.
Ireland were much improved immediately after the break and almost got back into the game ten minutes into the second-half. Danny Kane did well to win a corner and Shipley's back-post delivery was headed narrowly wide by Corey Whelan. And Ryan Delaney came within inches of a consolation in the final minute when he toe-poked a low shot against the post.
"This Germany side were the best I've come up against in my eight years in charge," insisted King afterwards.
"Our lads defended well and nearly hit them on the counter. In terms of work-rate and spirit, we matched Germany throughout. But football is about more than just that, which is why Germany are top seeds and the best team in Europe. From our perspective, it was really encouraging performance for the future."
Germany - M Nicolas; T Baumgartl (L Klostermann 75), R Koch, L Oztunali, A Sabiri; J Serra (L Waldschmidt 57), M Mittelstadt, P Ochs; M Hartel, F Uduokhai, J Eggestein.
Ireland - L Bossin (Nottingham Forest); C Whelan (Crewe Alexandraw), R Sweeney (Mansfield Town), R Delaney (Rochdale), D Kane (AFC Flyde); S Donnellan (Yeovil Town), J Cullen (Charlton Athletic); L Kinsella (Walsall), J McGrath (Dundalk), J Shipley (Coventry City); Ronan Hale (Derry City). Subs: J Dunne (Hearts) for Kane (64), R Greco-Cox (Crawley Town) for Hale (75).
Ref - K Aded (Fra)