Football: Narrow victory for subs' bench

Republic of Ireland 0 Northern Ireland 1 Griffin 85 Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 12,100
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The Independent Online
HAVING EARNED some pounds 200,000 for the Omagh Fund yesterday, uniting Ireland on an occasion that put sport before politics, Republic of Ireland players and officials last night took a very different attitude to next Saturday's home game against Yugoslavia, saying that they will only take part under protest.

Incensed by Uefa's decision that the European Championship fixture must go ahead, despite continuing hostilities in the Balkans, the Football Association of Ireland revealed that none of the traditional courtesies - let alone normal Dublin warmth - will be extended to their visitors. "We're not having national anthems or flags, we're giving no courtesy to the Yugo- slavia team and refusing television or radio rights to them," said FAI's president, Pat Quigley.

Mick McCarthy, Ireland's manager, said he was "very surprised the game is going ahead". He even admitted that a flat performance and a rare home defeat might have come about partly because he discussed the Yugoslavia match with his players before yesterday's kick-off.

"I'm speaking on behalf of the players and it's a collective decision," he said. "We support the FAI in what they've done and will be playing under protest."

His weakened team did not deserve to beat a Northern Ireland side that was even worse hit by injuries, the play-off finals and a different sort of engagement - Steve Lomas and Keith Gillespie walked up the aisle rather than the tunnel for their respective wedding ceremonies.

That left Leicester's Neil Lennon as the visitors' only regular Premiership performer. He was the most effective player on either side and when he suffered cramp late in the game, Danny Griffin, the St Johnstone full- back, came on to score an unexpected goal. Griffin lunged at a loose ball just outside the area, and his shot flew over Shay Given, who was beaten for the first time in six home matches.

Chances had been evenly distributed, Iain Dowie and Adrian Coote, his replacement, going close before the Republic's Mark Kinsella hit the bar. Overall it was a poor, low-key game for the disappointingly small crowd. Next Saturday promises to be altogether different.

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