U21s' hopes in tatters after loss
Ireland's U21 side will, rather depressingly, have to look ahead to the Euro 2019 championships after their faint hopes of qualification for the 2017 finals ended in defeat in Slovenia yesterday.
A bright start to the group for Noel King's side - three straight wins - has come crashing down with four successive losses, the latest a 3-1 loss away to Slovenia.
The U21s have three remaining games in September and October, which they would need to win to keep their minimal hopes of earning a play-off place alive, and boss King will probably use those matches to bring in some more new faces.
"We will look at how the other games in the group pan out in the coming weeks before looking at bringing in the next age group where we have some very talented young players coming through," said King.
"The big frustration is to have conceded from three dead-ball situations. The penalty was extremely harsh and it was the turning point in the game.
"We had some good spells in the game but didn't make it pay. We lost key players to injuries in the game also but overall it wasn't a good enough performance and a disappointing result."
King made four changes from the side which went down 4-1 at home to Italy last week, with Chesterfield's Connor Dimaio in for his U21 debut, promoted from the U19 squad.
But once Slovenia took the lead on 14 minutes, it was really game over, and tournament over, for Ireland as Luka Krajnc fired past keeper Ian Lawlor from close range.
Any chance of an Ireland revival died 10 minutes into the second half when the home side doubled their lead, Gregor Bajde converting from the penalty spot after a Sean Long foul.
Oxford United man Callum O'Dowda got a goal back for Ireland on 65 minutes but just seven minutes later Slovenia went 3-1 up, Miha Zajc finding the net with a thumping free-kick from the edge of the box.
It was a bad day all round for Ireland's underage sides as Tom Mohan's U17 outfit lost 2-0 to Serbia in Poland in the opening game of their Elite Qualifying Round tournament.
"It was a disappointing result and it was a poor game on a bad pitch. Serbia were a big side who took no chances on a very hard pitch and played the conditions better than we did," said Mohan.
"The two goals were poorly defended and it was frustrating. Our mistakes were punished while there's weren't.
"We had three reasonable chances late on but overall it was a stop start game that suited them better than us.
"We'll just have to get ourselves back into the right frame of mind for our next game against Macedona tomorrow."