Football: Republic distracted by Yugoslavia tie

Republic Of Ireland 0 Northern Ireland 1
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The Independent Online
MICK McCARTHY, the Republic of Ireland manager, has to hope that the anger his players and coaches feel at being made to go ahead with this week's Euro 2000 game at home to Yugoslavia can be put to constructive use. On Saturday in Dublin, the opposite applied. After McCarthyhad discussed the matter with them before the match, a flat, distracted performance and a first defeat by Northern Ireland in 20 years followed.

Past meetings between the two Irish teams, all in qualifying groups for the World Cup or European Championship, have without exception been passionate affairs. There was an unreal air about this one, played for the worthiest of causes - the Omagh fund - but in front of only 12,100 people.

After the game, Northern Ireland's Lawrie McMenemy and his badly weakened side had barely any time to bask in an unexpected victory before Football Association of Ireland officials changed the news agenda by attacking Uefa and announcing that none of the normal courtesies of international football - hospitality, flags, anthems and presentations - would be extended to Yugoslavia, whose people will also be refused the chance to follow the match on radio or television.

"The view of the FAI is that we're being forced to play a game that we'd say was inappropriate, under threat of expulsion from the competition," said the chief executive, Bernard O'Byrne. "We wouldn't want to be seen to be bringing any propaganda support to the Yugoslav regime."

As for the football, the Irish must rediscover a cutting edge against the only side to have beaten them in the group - 1-0 in Belgrade last November. Even without Roy Keane, who will still not be available against either Yugoslavia or Macedonia four days later, they should have been too strong for McMenemy's crop of reserves and lower division players.

But Neil Lennon took a grip in midfield, Jon McCarthy and Keith Rowland worked the wings well and Iain Dowie and Adrian Coote were given one half each to harrass the home defence. Once Mark Kinsella's lob hit the bar, a fifth draw in nine meetings of North and South seemed likely. Then St Johnstone's Danny Griffin came on as the ninth substitute of a disjointed match to score a late winning goal.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-4-2): Given (Newcastle); Carr (Tottenham), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Babb (Liverpool), Maybury (Leeds); Kennedy (Wimbledon), Kinsella (Charlton), Carsley, Duff (Blackburn); Keane (Wolves), Quinn (Sunderland). Substitutes: McLoughlin (Portsmouth) for Carsley, h-t; Kavanagh (Stoke City) for Kinsella, 80; O'Neill (Middlesbrough) for Duff, 55; Connolly (Wolves) for Keane, 55; Cascarino (Nancy) for Quinn, 71.

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-4-2): Taylor (Fulham); Patterson (Dundee Utd), Williams (Chesterfield), Hunter (Reading), Hughes (Newcastle); McCarthy (Birmingham City), Robinson (Bournemouth), Lennon (Leicester City), Rowland (Queen's Park Rangers); Dowie (Queen's Park Rangers), Quinn (West Bromwich). Substitutes: Carroll (Wigan) for Taylor, h-t; Griffin (St Johnstone) for Lennon, 78; Johnson (Blackburn Rovers) for Rowland, 73; Coote (Norwich City) for Dowie, h-t.

Referee: C Richards (Wales).

Bookings: none.

Man of the Match: Lennon.

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