Football: Irishmen enjoy home comforts

Road to Euro 2000: Old hands Irwin and Keane join forces to stun the World Cup semi-finalists : Republic of Ireland 2 Irwin pen 4, Roy Keane 15 Croatia 0 Attendance: 34,000

IRISH FOOTBALL's new-found confidence was reflected in a triumphant start to the European Championship campaign at Lansdowne Road yesterday afternoon. A penalty by Denis Irwin followed by Roy Keane's goal in the first 16 minutes put them on their way against Croatia, placed third at the World Cup, who then obligingly made three points a formality by having two players dismissed for unnecessary fouls midway through the second half.

Manager Mick McCarthy's old hands were in the end more influential than the so-called Young Dubs he has recently introduced, but both the long term and the immediate future looked bright again on a rousing Dublin afternoon.

After two narrow failures in the most recent major tournaments, going out on a play-off each time, the Republic have uncovered a crop of bright young players in every age group. In the summer, they became the first country ever to win the European Championship at both Under-18 and Under- 16 level.

The first graduate from those sides, Robbie Keane of Wolves, played his first competitive game for the seniors yesterday and although any comparisons with Michael Owen may prove unwise, he was very much in McCarthy's mind when the manager said earlier in the week: "The guts of this team could be together for 10 years."

It was Keane's namesake Roy who made the greater impression yesterday, producing a driving midfield performance on his return after a year's absence. Along side him Mark Kinsella was as impressive as he has been in Charlton's opening Premiership games, while the experience of Irwin, Steve Staunton and Jason McAteer shone through when it mattered.

It was vital to the Republic's hopes of success in the group to begin well before travelling to Yugoslavia next month, as McCarthy acknowledged afterwards. "We played well and deserved to win," he said. "We've started with a good victory but it's only a start."

As fortune has not always favoured him since succeeding Jack Charlton two and a half years ago, the manager could not be begrudged his luck in playing Croatia at a time when players like the World Cup's leading scorer Davor Suker, Alen Boksic, Goran, Vlaovic, all strikers, Robert Prosinecki and Slaven Bilic were all unavailable.

Without them, Miroslav Blazevic's side badly needed to subdue the home team and another full house of 34,000 early on, rather than conceding a penalty within five minutes of the kick-off.

Having already twice thrust forcefully down the left, the Irish switched to the right, where Jason McAteer sent Irwin away on the overlap. Although his cross came to nothing, the Manchester United full-back, challenging for possession again, found himself sandwiched between Robert Jarni and Krunoslav Jurcic.

If it was the kind of penalty award that falls to home teams more often than visitors, Irwin was not about to refuse the gift and calmly placed his kick low to the goalkeeper's left for, surprisingly, only his third goal in 49 internationals.

Keith O'Neill, the Norwich striker, was off the pitch having treatment on a leg injury while the penalty was taken and he returned for only a few more minutes before being replaced by Tony Cascarino, still domiciled in France.

The 36-year-old, even more of a physical presence than O'Neill, immediately put himself about and it was a swirling cross from McAteer aimed towards him that led indirectly to the second goal. The ball was overhit, but Igor Tudor, the right wing-back, unnecessarily conceded a corner, which was cleared only to McAteer some 20 yards out. His fierce drive was deflected into the air and Roy Keane out-jumped everyone to head inside the far post.

After setting up McAteer soon after halftime for a shot just passed the post, Robbie Keane made way for Lee Carsley in a substitution designed to bolster the midfield, which almost brought a third goal instead.

Keane had barely made it to the dugout as Irwin swung over a free kick that goalkeeper Drazen Ladic pushed out unconvincingly. The ball fell perfectly for Carsley, whose first touch in the match was a 20-yard drive heading for the top corner of the net until Ladic pushed it away. From the resulting corner Kinsella thumped a shot against the bar from similar range.

A header by substitute Egor Pamic straight at Shay Given suggested a possible recovery by the Croats, which was soon undermined when two of their number were sent off within as many minutes. First Mario Stanic went in late on Staunton and received his second yellow card. Then Jurcic, absurdly, lunged at the same opponent and the Portuguese referee brought out the red card.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?