07.10.2005 at 19:00 GSZ Stadium
Referee: Miroslaw Ryszka (Poland)
Joe O Brien
Paul Mc Shane
Aidan Mc Geady
Cyprus 1 Republic of Ireland 1
Willo Flood spared the Republic of Ireland’s blushes — but it is now eight matches without a win for Don Givens’ side.Since opening up their UEFA U-21 Championship qualifying programme with a 3-0 victory over Cyprus in Kilkenny 13 months ago, it has been a campaign to forget for Ireland.
For Givens, with his sides qualification hopes long evaporated, it was a time to experiment and debuts were handed to Lutons Keith Keane and Marcos Painter of Birmingham.
Sadly for Keane, his maiden appearance lasted just 42 minutes as he was made a fall-guy for the latest below-par performance from Givens under-achieving side.
Cyprus coach Andreas Kouloumbris, in only his third match in charge after taking over six weeks ago, had clearly done his homework as Keane and Painter were given a rough ride.
Admittedly, the 30-degree Celsius heat at kick-off in the GSZ Stadium home of AEK Larnaca will have played its part, but there can still be no excuses.
Ireland mustered two notable chances in the opening half, the first coming in the 21st minute with Keane the supplier from the right for Brentfords Jay Tabb to flick on to a wide-open Aiden McGeady.
After a controlling first touch, the 19-year-old Celtic winger cracked a left-foot drive through the six-yard box but his shot was inches wide of the right post.
Either side of McGeadys chance, it was Cyprus who created the opportunities, capitalising on the indecisiveness of a raw Irish defence.
A number of warning signs had already been posted before the home side took the lead on the half-hour mark, courtesy of the biggest mistake of the game.
Brighton defender Paul McShane, winning only his second cap, lost the ball to Anthos Solomou down by his own corner flag.
That allowed the striker to play a low ball to an all-alone Antonis Panayi in the heart of the area and, with Brighton goalkeeper Wayne Henderson on loan from Aston Villa drawn out of position, a sidefoot shot was despatched from 12 yards, with Painter almost clearing off the line.
Sadly for Keane, he was then hauled off in the 42nd minute, just before which Ireland almost grabbed an equaliser when Bohemians Stephen Ward shaved the post with an angled drive through the six-yard box.
At that stage, there was the sense of another embarrassing defeat looming, but Ireland grew stronger as the game wore on and the temperatures dipped.
In terms of possession, they enjoyed the lion s share of the second period, finally giving the 1,000-strong Irish following something to cheer in the 76th minute.
McGeady delivered a corner to the near post, with Coventry midfielder Flood on loan from Manchester City producing a surging run that ended with a flick header beyond Dimitris Stylianou.
Strict Polish referee Miroslaw Ryszka stamped his mark on the game by booking four Ireland players, Marcos Painter, Burys John Fitzgerald, Liverpools Darren Potter and Stephen Ward.
CYPRUS U21: Dimitris Stylianou, Periklis, Pavlou, Iona, Adonis Panagi, Paraskevas Christou, Georgos Panagi, Georgiades, Merkis, Loukas Stylianou, Solomou.
REP OF IRELAND U21: Henderson, Keane, Ward, Painter, Potter, O Brien, Fitzgerald, McShane, Flood, Tabb, McGeady.
Subs: Henry McStay (Portadown) for Keane 40, Glen Whelan (Sheffield Wednesday) for O’Brien 46, Karl Birmingham for Ward 74.
Referee: Miroslaw Ryszka (Poland)