Kenny laments swift turnaround as Brazil dash Irish hopes
Brazil U-23 2 Ireland U-21 0
Stephen Kenny reckons the fatigue factor contributed to Ireland's exit from the Toulon Tournament at the semi-final stage yesterday.
His U-21s always faced an uphill task to upset an U-23 Brazil team gearing up to defend their Olympic title next year.
Despite Manchester City star Douglas Silva arrowing a third-minute penalty wide, the Samba Boys were convincing winners in Vitrolles, France, thanks to a goal early in each half from Paulinho and Matheus Cunha.
Connor Ronan came closest to equalising for the Irish just before the break, a miss Kenny described as the turning point of the contest.
The Boys in Green will meet Mexico in Saturday's third-place play-off, a curtain-raiser for the final between Brazil and Japan.
"We all know Brazil have a superior side but it wasn't an even challenge," said Kenny, whose unbeaten record in the U-21 post was ended in his fifth match.
"Three of our four games were played in the afternoon and Brazil were able to make a team full of changes for their final group match.
"That gave their first-choice players almost a week of rest. Our lads weren't fresh at all.
"We would have given Brazil a better game with adequate recovery."
Stephen Mallon, the Belfast-born winger at Sheffield United, was given his debut at U-21 level but didn't see much of the action as the South Americans dominated.
When Conor Masterson bundled over Cunha six yards out, Mexican referee Marcos Enrique Santander pointed to the spot and booked the former Liverpool defender.
Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, still at Liverpool, was sent the wrong way from the penalty but holding midfielder Silva didn't hit the target.
Ireland's first attempt fell to defender Dara O'Shea, who nodded over from a corner, but the slick passing of Brazil soon opened them up.
Paulinho, the Bayer Leverkusen winger, was allowed slip away from Jayson Molumby to get a clear sight at goal from 25 yards.
Though his shot didn't carry much venom, it bobbled over the hand of Kelleher and into the net.
That lead might have been doubled by the same player on 37 minutes when, following another sweeping move, Paulinho's rising effort bent a yard wide of Kelleher's upright.
Then came Ireland's best chance to level. Darragh Leahy's cross from the left drifted all the way to fellow full-back Lee O'Connor. The Manchester United defender squared for Ronan, who blazed his shot over from 10 yards.
And it would prove a crucial moment as Ireland conceded a soft second goal within just 100 seconds of the restart.
Once again, Paulinho was involved by cutting in from the left and his lay-off allowed Cunha to swivel and tuck a low shot through a thicket of Irish defenders and beyond a static Kelleher.
Only a swift response would offer some encouragement and Aaron Connolly almost provided it.
However, as was the case with Ronan's opportunity, he was unable to keep it under the bar.
Kelleher was forced to go full-stretch in denying substitute Guga a third but Ireland can feel no shame at bowing out against the best team at the 12-nation tournament.
"Connor's miss, coming so close to half-time, was a turning point," said Kenny before contextualising. "Maybe it wouldn't have been. Brazil are capable of playing through the gears."
Ireland - C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O'Connor (Manchester United), D O'Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (Unattached), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Brighton), C Coventry (West Ham United); S Mallon (Sheffield United), C Ronan (Wolves), A Connolly (Brighton); A Idah (Norwich City). Subs: S Power (Norwich City) for Mallon (54), J Taylor (Barnet) for Ronan (65), A Drinan (Waterford) for Idah (83), J Barrett (Reading) for Connolly (84).
Brazil - Ivan; Emerson (Guga 56), Iago, Murilo, Lynaco; Douglas Luiz, Matheus Henrique (Lucas Fernandes 78); Antony (Wendel 56), Pedrinho; Paulinho; Matheus Cunha.
Ref - M Enrique Santander (Mex)