King's men show fight but crash out
Serbia u-21 3-2 Ireland u-21
Ireland went out fighting from the Under-21 UEFA qualifiers in Serbia last night.
Requiring victory to keep alive their remote hopes of finishing second, they had their moments in Novi Sad only for the class of the U-20 World champions to prevail.
Partizan Belgrade striker Uros Durdevic made the most telling impact by scoring twice, including a penalty which turned out to be the winner.
Durdevic struck first on 12 minutes by giving Ireland captain Tommie Hoban the slip inside the box. The visitors were again unhinged after 64 minutes as Darko Lazic doubled the lead from a free header.
Senior international Callum O'Dowda soon halved the deficit five minutes later with a bullet header, yet Durdevic restored the two-goal cushion from the penalty spot on 79 minutes after his run into the box was halted by Ireland goalkeeper Danny Rogers.
There was still time two minutes later for substitute Sean Maguire to score from Darragh Lenihan's knockdown for the second game running but it wasn't enough.
"Serbia may not have the swagger of Spain or France but they are a serious nation at underage level," reflected Ireland boss Noel King afterwards.
"Although their team were physically strong and technically excellent, we came to within a kick of the ball of getting a draw here.
"I don't think our lads could have put in any more effort."
After handing out debuts to Olamide Shopido, Courtney Duffus and Jake Mulraney in the past week, King has vowed to blood some more new talent for the final fixture against the Serbians in Waterford on October 7 in Waterford.
SERBIA - V Savic-Milinkovic; M Gajic, D Lazic, M Veljkovic, N Antonov; M Grujic (M Ristic 77), S Lukic; A Zivkovic (A Cavric 60), S Savic-Milinkovic, M Gacinovic; U Durdevic (N Radonjic 83).
IRELAND - D Rogers (Falkirk); G Rea (Luton Town), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), T Hoban (Blackburn Rovers), K O'Connor (Cork City); J Byrne (Blackburn Rovers), J Cullen (Bradford City); C O'Dowda (Bristol City), H Charsley (Everton), O Shopido (QPR); C Duffus (Everton). Subs: J Mulraney (Inverness) for Shodipo (65), S Maguire (Cork City) for Duffus (73), C Dimaio (Chesterfield) for Byrne (76).
REF - O Grinfeld (Isr)