Noel King's Ireland under-21 side end their European Championship qualifying campaign with defeat in Germany
Germany 2 (J Serra 32, L Oztunali 40) Republic of Ireland 0
Noel King’s Ireland finished third in their Under-21 European Championship group as two goals late in the first half gave pool victors Germany full points in in Heidenheim on Tuesday evening.
As expected, even a much-changed German side dominated possession from the start. They had clinched their place in next year’s finals by beating Norway on Thursday, affording boss Stefan Kuntz the opportunity to freshen up his side.
King, whose side’s defeat in Israel last week ending any remote chance of a play-off, gave League of Ireland gems Ronan Hale and Jamie McGrath their first starts.
They spent a lot of time chasing back but Ireland almost forged an unlikely lead on eight minutes.
A well-worked move on the left saw McGrath find captain Josh Cullen in a central position and from 25-yards, his low effort was only parried by keeper Moritz Nicolas. Ronan Hale was quickest to react but he was flagged for offside.
Huddersfield Town’s Abdelhamid Sabiri hit the bar with an audacious effort from 30 yards before the home side took the lead with the very next attack.
Marcel Hartel rode two challenges 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 before the break thanks to a moment of brilliance from Levin Oztunali. After patient build-up play, the FSV Mainz attacker turned onto his left-foot just outside the area and found the top corner in the 39th minute.
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 left-sided 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.
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 mins), R Greco-Cox (Crawley Town) for Hale (75 mins).