Under-21 International Friendly
Cyprus 0-0 Republic of Ireland
Noel Kings Republic of Ireland under-21 side were held to a scoreless draw in a friendly international in Larnaca today despite a dominant display from the visitors.
Conor Clifford came close to carving out the first opening for the Irish in the tenth minute but his through ball was slightly over-hit and James Collins failed to get on the end of the pass.
Three minutes later Irish keeper Richie Branagan - son of former senior cap Keith Branagan - was relieved to see a header from Lampros Fylaktou land on the top of the crossbar after a corner.
Celtic midfielder Richie Towell fired narrowly over from 30-yards out in the 17th minute after being teed up by Aaron Doran following a Conor Hourihane corner.
Branagan was replaced at half-time by Ipswich keeper Ian McLoughlin and the substitute made a name for himself when he saved a penalty from Andreas Pittaras in the 55th minute. Charalambos Dimosthenous had gone down in the box and was awarded a spot-kick, much to the bemusement of the Irish defence.
Debut boy Conor Doyle made an impression after his introduction at the break. The Texas-born attacker was a constant threat to the home defence and was unlucky not the find the net with an attempt on the hour.
The home defence held firm under a late Irish assault with Clifford, Doyle and the quicksilver Sean Scannell all coming close to finding a winner.
"Overall it was a training exercise and we gave a run-out to all 17 players that travelled who were fit enough to play," explained King.
"It was a good chance to look at everybody. I saw plenty of good and bad things in the performance. I was pleased with lots of the good stuff but I know there is plenty of room to improve.
"We probably had the lions share of the possession and we created a few half-chances going for a winner but it never came. It was our second clean sheet on the trot and you will always take that, particularly in such warm conditions.
"Both goalkeepers kept clean sheets and Ian McLoughlin was obviously pleased to save a penalty that was harsh to say the least. The defence did well as a unit. I have learned a lot and if we can learn this much from every game I would be very happy."
Derby County striker Doyle made a lively contribution and King insisted he will not be putting pressure on the youngster, who is also eligible to play for the USA but holds an Irish passport, to make a swift decision on his international future.
"Conor did well. We do not play competitively again until September," explained King.
"I have discussed the issue with him and will not be putting pressure on him. There will be no decision on my side in the short term. I said it was great to see him and that I would be making no promises to any player. He appreciated that and it is now a matter of taking the time to get the right decision for him and for us."
The Irish under-21 side will play Hungary on September 1 in their opening UEFA Championships qualifying game.
Republic of Ireland : Richie Branagan (Bury); Richie Towell (Hibernian -on loan from Celtic), Shane Duffy (Everton), Rob Kiernan (Watford), Johnny Dunleavy (Barnet - on loan from Wolves), Mark Connolly (Bolton), Conor Clifford (Chelsea), Conor Hourihane (Ipswich), Aaron Doran (Inverness CT -on loan from Blackburn), Sean Scannell (Crystal Palace), James Collins (Shrewsbury - on loan from Aston Villa).
Subs: Conor Doyle (Derby County) for Doran 46 mins; Jamie Devitt (Hull City) for Hourihane 46; Ian McLoughlin (Ipswich) for Branagan 46; Enda Stevens (Shamrock Rvrs) for Towell 72; Mikey Collins (APEP FC) for J Collins 75, Robbie Gibbons (Alki Larnaca) for Scannell 80.