Football: Euro 2000: Irish campaign comes to bitter end in Turkey

Turkey 0 Republic of Ireland 0 1-1 on aggregate: Turkey win on away goals: Another play-off ends in disappointment for McCarthy's men who cannot halt opponents' progress despite a valiant defensive effort
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The Independent Online
IF EVERY day is a winding road, the Republic of Ireland's adventures in beating a path toward the European Championship finals have had enough twists and turns to last a lifetime. After journeys through both the Balkan war zones and Europe's earthquake zones - and having been at one stage only 12 seconds away from automatic qualification - they finally bowed out here last night without losing either the game or any self-respect.

The goalless draw, a creditable result under normal circumstances, was insufficient to carry them through, because of the away goal Turkey scored with a late penalty in Dublin on Saturday. With that advantage, the Turks always looked the more likely to advance to their second successive European finals and leave Ireland unrepresented at a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup.

The home side made most of the running, only to miss so many chances that the crowd of 20,000 - noisy but less intimidating than expected - were kept in a state of excitable frustration before being able to celebrate another local triumph on the ground where the Netherlands and Germany had previously been beaten.

As emotion overflowed on and off the pitch at the final whistle Tony Cascarino was punched and kicked in a painful ending to his international career. Like the other Irish strikers, he had been unable to trouble the two goalkeepers Turkey were forced to use. Robbie Keane, suspended after picking up an unnecessary yellow card on Saturday, might have made a difference, while Niall Quinn's absence from the first leg did not help the cause either.

Charlton's Dean Kiely had an excellent full debut in goal and the return of his clubmate Mark Kinsella stiffened the midfield alongside Roy Keane, without helping the team create scoring opportunities.

After a solid first half in which they were largely untroubled, Ireland needed to press forward more threateningly, but found Yalcin Sergen pushed into a more advanced position and becoming the game's most influential figure.

Ireland's manager, Mick McCarthy, could not find it in him to criticise the players he had just left behind in a desolate dressing-room, blaming instead the failure to make the most of home advantage.

"We had enough chances in the first game and deserved better over two legs," he said. "There was some good football from both teams and I'm proud of all my players. Now we move on with chins up and chests out like proud Irishmen."

Already missing Mark Kennedy, Steve Staunton, Alan Kelly and the younger Keane, McCarthy's team were forced into another change after barely four minutes. Tottenham's much improved right-back, Stephen Carr, was unable to continue after tackling Ercan Abdullah and Jeff Kenna came on. The Blackburn man did well enough and the defence stood firm for most of a first half in which Turkey had a strong wind as well as the crowd behind them.

They nevertheless failed to master the conditions, betraying a certain nervousness in over-hitting passes and crosses and they got behind Ireland's back four just a couple of times before the interval . After 13 minutes Rory Delap was caught out by Korcut Tayfun's pass inside him to Abdullah, whose centre Buruk Okan badly miscued. Arif Erdem, presented with a better opportunity, turned and arced a shot which appeared to have beaten Kiely before landing on top of the net.

Ireland were able to play more controlled football into the wind without threatening to score the goal they needed. They received some psychological encouragement when the Turkey goalkeeper, Recber Rustu, injured his back after challenging Kevin Kilbane for a high cross and then falling on Roy Keane's low drive. He was substituted by his Fenerbahce colleague, Ipekoglu Engin. Kiely distinguished himself by turning Hakan Sukur's header for a corner via the top of the crossbar and then falling at the same player's feet, but he was grateful to watch Turkey fritter away four opportunities in 15 minutes at the start of the second half.

Cascarino and Damien Duff were sent on but Turkey remained the more likely to score. They almost did so as Sergen went clear, to be thwarted by Kiely.

TURKEY: (4-4-2) Rustu (Fenerbahce); Ogun (Fenerbahce), Ali Eren (Besiktas), Alpay (Galatasaray); Tayfun (Fenerbahce), Tayfur (Besiktas), Sergen (Fenerbahce), Okan (Galatasaray), Abdullah (Fenerbahce); Hakan Sukur, Arif (both Galatasaray). Substitutes: Engin (Fenerbahce) for Rustu, 38; Fatih (Galatasaray) for Tayfur, h-t; Umit (Galatasaray) for Arif 83.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-4-2): Kiely (Charlton); Carr (Tottenham), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Breen (Coventry), Irwin (Man Utd); Delap (Derby), Kinsella (Charlton), Keane (Man Utd), Kilbane (West Brom); Quinn (Sunderland), Connolly (Feyenoord). Substitutes: Kenna (Blackburn) for Carr, 4; Duff (Blackburn) for Connolly, 69; Cascarino (Nancy) for Kenna 80.

Referee: G Veissiere (France).