Steve Staunton's nascent stewardship of the Republic of Ireland took a heavy blow as his side suffered one of the worst defeats in their history. Any hope Staunton and Ireland had of qualifying for the Euro 2008 finals appears futile after just two games, and in particular on the back of this shambolic showing.
Not only did they concede five goals to a Cypriot team ranked 60 places below them by Fifa, but to add to their miserable night, Richard Dunne was dismissed late on. Serving a one-match touchline ban following his dismissal from the dug-out in the 1-0 defeat against Germany in Stuttgart last month, Staunton must have watched with a sense of mounting horror, but after the game he refused to panic. "I'm not walking away," he said. "This job is certainly not beyond me, and I have full faith in myself and in the younger players. Defensively, that's the worst performance I have seen by an Ireland side."
Mistake followed mistake from the Irish but, after a 6-1 loss in their opening game against Slovakia, the Cypriots' fragility in defence was the first to be exposed. A left-wing ball from Damien Duff was headed back by Aiden McGeady into the path of Stephen Ireland. The 20-year-old Manchester City midfielder scored with a sweet drive.
The Republic, though, had failed to heed the earlier warning from their hosts and the errors continued to flow, initially from Andy O'Brien, and then Kenny. The Portsmouth centre-back O'Brien ballooned a clearance and Michalis Konstantinou made no mistake with the gift, sidefooting past Kenny for Cyprus's first goal against Ireland in six meetings.
After Kenny saved a 20-yard drive from Yiannakis Okkas, it was his turn to be embarrassed. Kenny punched thin air trying toclear a ball from Lambros Lambrou, and it allowed Alexis Garpozis to head into an unguarded net from 10 yards.
The Portuguese referee, Lucilio Cardoso Batista, briefly took centre stage with four bookings in five minutes before Ireland levelled just before the break. Dunne, one of those cautioned, headed home a Duff cross for his first goal for his country for more than three years.
The interval should have given the Republic the opportunity to regroup. Instead, worse followed as O'Brien was guilty of bundling over Stathis Aloneftis inside the area in the 51st minute. Konstantinou scored his second of the game from the penalty spot, easily sending Kenny the wrong way as he sidefooted home.
Nine minutes later and Ireland's misery was compounded, this time as further defensive indecision allowed Konstantinos Makridis to tee up the half-time substitute Constantinos Charalambides.
Then in the 75th minute came a fifth goal for Cyprus, with Kenny initially producing a brilliant save in blocking a Konstantinou header as the Cypriot rose unmarked to meet an Aloneftis left-wing cross. But there was nothing Kenny could do as Charalambides followed up to stroke home the rebound from inside the six-yard box.
Soon after came Dunne's dismissal for a second bookable offence and a questionable foul on Okkas, but by then all the damage had been done.Ireland next face the Czech Republic on Wednesday, which leaves little time for Staunton to lift his team. "We have obviously got quite a lot to think about between now and then," he said, with some understatement.Reuse content