O'Brien's side 'gutted' after offside drama denies brave Irish in final act
Ireland U-17 1 Greece U-17 1
Many eyes may have scanned Tallaght Stadium's 4,265 attendance for a glimpse of Irish football's most dominant personality.
But there was no sign of John Delaney, the man credited with doing so much to ensure Ireland could host such a tournament as this. Hamlet without the Prince, perhaps; then again, the play's the thing.
Sadly, it was a Greek tragedy, of sorts; Ireland dominated all evening and led through Matt Everitt's 58th-minute goal until being undone in the final minute by a controversial decision.
Dimitris Arsenedis appeared offside when bungling home his goal, deep into injury-time, but though the linesman then flagged, a touch off Irish defender Seán McEvoy appeared to dissuade the referee, even though another Greek player looked offside as McEvoy intervened.
"We're gutted after such a good performance," said goalscorer Everitt. "I realised he had the flag up and I don't know what's going on."
"It was a tough blow at the end," said manager Colin O'Brien, who confirmed that the referee told him that the Greek goal had been awarded due to McEvoy's unwitting intervention.
Controversy Controversy seems to dog this Irish team; last year, they were infamously undone in a penalty shoot-out quarter-final defeat to Holland when Jimmy Corcoran was sent off for encroachment.
Crucially, he also admitted his side could have been well out of sight before the late drama; the Czechs and Belgians, who also drew, are stronger teams but Ireland can improve too. Ireland swiftly asserted dominance, creating the first of a series of well-worked chances, Joseph Hodge and Everitt linking well before Charlie McCann blazed over.
Everitt attempted to navigate an audacious route to goal from a free-kick to the left corner of the penalty corner but couldn't effect enough swerve on the ball.
Ebosele's deft feet then combined neatly with McCann but the latter's shot was again insufficient to break the deadlock, even if the young Irish boys were having a great deal of fun playing with the keys.
Karamperis was too feisty for his own good, though, and eventually found the notebook after one foul too many.
At least the referee was here on time; another group game between England and France was delayed in Longford while the referee was being errantly driven to Athlone instead on an impromptu tour of the midlands. "A wrong turning", we were officially notified.
The game lulled and it was probably a surprise, then, when Ireland got the goal they may have deserved earlier in the piece during their most difficult period but, in the 58th minute, their belated reward arrived.
Furlong's corner was headed purposefully back across goal by Omobamidele; Conor Carty nodded it on and, as a clambering defender scrambled, Brighton man Everitt pounced to poke the ball home.
Republic Of Ireland - G Bazunu; S McEvoy, A Omobamidele, O Sobowale (A McNulty 66), J Furlong; J Hodge; S Keogh capt; M Everitt (S Kennedy 90), C McCann (R McKinley 79), F Ebosale; C Carty.
Greece - K Tzolakis; A Tsavos, P Panagioutou, V Pavlidis, A Aventisian; T Karamperis, A Siatounis; V Souris (C Belevenos 86), V Grosdis (D Arsenedis 85), G Karakoutis (N Kotopoulus 73); C Tzolis.
Ref - J Burchardt (Denmark)