Monday 20 January 2020

Madalin leaves McCue's men facing uphill struggle for qualification


IN SIMILAR fashion to their senior counterparts, this blip midway through the UEFA Championship qualifying campaign leaves Ireland's U-21s already playing catch-up.

The Boys in Green, led by interim boss Harry McCue, could have effectively eliminated second seeds Romania from the qualification shake-up yesterday at the Showgrounds.

Instead, some basic errors, coupled with a wonder strike by Martin Madalin, ensured it was Ireland waking up today needing a rescue remedy.

The game-changer in a tight contest arrived nine minutes into the second half when Samir Carruthers, restored to the side after missing Friday's scoreless draw between the nations, was caught in possession near the half-way line.

Midfielder Madalin still had work left to do, yet was allowed to advance unchallenged and rocket a 35-yard strike into the top corner.

Intense pressure in the closing stages failed to yield Ireland a deserved equaliser, with captain Shane Duffy and debutant Will Hayhurst guilty of wasting clear-cut chances.


Romania's recovery from a sluggish start to the series means it's not only the gradual force of Montenegro that Ireland have to overcome if they're to become the first U-21 squad in the FAI's history to clinch second place and a seal a play-off into the European Championships in 2015.

McCue admits this body-blow heightens the importance of winning both matches in next month's double-header against the Faroe Islands and Montenegro.

"We've lots to do after these two results against Romania," he said.

"It was an off-day for us. Man for man, we weren't up to the mark today and got punished for the winner from a sloppy piece of play. The goal summed up the type of game it was for us.

"It's not like we took Romania for granted; they're a good side and their goal was brilliant. You need that bit of luck, however, and we didn't get it towards the end when the ball was mostly in their box.

"It's all about winning as many games in the second half of the campaign. Draws won't do anymore."

The Irish can only hope they succeed where Giovanni Trapattoni failed by reviving their fortunes as the campaign unfurls.

IRELAND – A McCarey (Wolves); A O'Connor (Torquay Utd), S Duffy (Yeovil Town), D Williams (Bristol City), S McGinty (Sheffield Utd); S Carruthers (MK Dons), F Sutherland (QPR); S Murray (Watford), C Smith (Watford), A Forde (Wolves); A O'Brien (Millwall). Subs: G Burke (Shrewsbury Town) for O'Brien (68), W Hayhurst (Preston NE) for Sutherland (70), C Reilly (Birmingham City) for Smith (78).

ROMANIA – L Branescu; C Belu, A Avramia, A Cretu, A Tosca; M Roman, A Dan, A Carstocea (R Benzar 71), C Bumba, M Madalin (C Bumba 56), S Popescu; A Ciolacu (A Ionita 86).

REF – M Kalkavan (Tur)

Irish Independent

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