Turkey 1 - 0 Republic of IrelandA Special Report
SLIGO SOCCER fans were treated to as near an exhibition of 'total' football as the modern Showgrounds has seen when Turkey beat Ireland 1-0 in a vital Under 21 European fixture last night (Tuesday).
Ireland's hopes of being one of the eight finalists in the 2013 European Championship under manager Noel King seem now all but gone.
The result was a repeat of when the two sides met in Turkey on September 6th last year. Lowly Liechtenstein are the only other team from whom Turkey has taken maximum points.
Ireland remain on 10 points, while Turkey move to 15, one behind the Group Seven leaders, Italy, who remain unbeaten but could yet only draw 2-2 in the Showgrounds on the June Bank Holiday weekend.
On the evidence it's elementary, Ireland can't do it. Even to win twice in four days next month, in Hungary and in Italy, will not suffice unless Ireland can also find four goals...and even then it would still be a lottery.
Last night was a still great occasion for Sligo, with several thousands turning out to cheer on an Irish side which, sadly, offered them only scraps to cheer about. But there was plenty of delight served by the Turks.
Although the scale is infinitely smaller, Sligo pulled off a mini London Olympics again last night, in terms of superb organisation and top-class delivery. No detail was too small to be right on the night. Sligo Rovers excelled on a European stage once again.
There are less plaudits for the football: The Irish display was humdrum, lacked mustard or passion, no game plan was evident beyond containment..and that in a match which Ireland simply had to win to stay alive.
In the slipstream of our Olympic success a lot of credit has been given to the 'High Performance Unit' strategy in which Irish boxing has thrived.No Style
Irish soccer -- and the manner it is played at every grade -- is in the deep Doldrums. There is need for some sort of a High Performance Unit to re-engineer the manner in which both the Irish and English play soccer. Each system is an equal failure and the schools and academies attached to the big name clubs is not correcting it.
I almost said the style in which it is played, rather than the manner. There is no style about Irish international soccer at any grade these days....and certainly not last night in Sligo.
Maybe that's the way it always was masked when it made the difference that we stirred in barrels of passion and gallons of pride.
But last night we saw an Irish squad play in the Showgrounds with no passion having donned the Irish jersey. Again and again, players never 'showed' for the ball. Why?
The groundsmen who worked through half time to lovingly repair divots all over the pitch, including the goalmouths, showed more of the Right Stuff than too many of the stars from the big cross Channel clubs.One Dimensional
The night was perfect for football - no wind or rain, the sun sun throughout and five flags barely fluttered at the railway goals. We got it off to a good start as the crowd sang two national anthems with gusto.
Well, the Irish sang ours and the Turks sang theirs; the pocket of their fans with pocket cameras to 'prove' they had been here had a one-dimension chant of 'Turkiye'....or 'Turkey Yeah,' as it sounded to jaundiced ears.
Their team, it could be argued, is fairly one dimensional, too.
Everything but everything in the first half was fed, ultimately, through their number seven, Omer Bayram, a carrier and harrier tireless in his designated tasks.
In the second half Bayram's role is best described as that of where the corner forward is in Gaelic football....or used to be. The precision of cross-field passes to him was a delight to behold.
Bayram was withdrawn late in the game. It seemed Turkey was settling for a scoreless draw with 14 minutes left.
But as with Greeks, beware if it seems Turks are bearing 'gifts;' the clue was a number 11 being substituted by a squad player number 9..and from the famed Galatasaray club.
The change was the catalyst for choking out the Irish challenge completely. In the final 10 minutes, Turkey scored the winner and could have two to three more.
Much To Admire
All night, Turkey had stroked the ball around with ease -- and consistently with speed and variety -- all on a super surface at the Showgrounds; what a tribute to all those who had that dream down all of a pitch to be proud of in Sligo.
Showgrounds stalwart, the late Paddy Morahan, for example, was always in thrall to the notion lf a good playing surface no matter where it was or who played the good football on it.
He would have been in admiration of the Turkish national side in the Showgrounds last night.....and there was much to admire. They kept Irish goalie Ian McLoughlin of MK Dons busy all night.
Turkey's tempo was relentless and remorseless; they play football much like their reputation in the trenches of war almost 100 years ago.
But, but admirers would have said too 'Our Lads' offered too much space last night. Acres of it.
It was evident Turkey disliked when the Irish got up close and physical; they even shammed and hammed injuries when the going might have got tough.
The Turks looked uncertain when put under physical pressure, Ireland looked best when exerting it. But they did that too little and certainly did it too late.
The always-ponderous approach of the Irish, sometimes insipid, deserved to be put to the sword by Turkey, no world beaters for sure. Turkey has lost three of its eight games.
But a telling telltale was evident for fans studying the stats at half time in the Showgrounds last night -- Turkey had drawn NONE of its Group Seven games.
And all the evidence in those opening 45 minutes strongly suggested they were not about to start the habit in Sligo, either. Their strategy for over 90 minutes was attack.
Ireland for its part never came out of its shell, that is until Turkey scored their winner in the 83rd minute. Then, the Volkswagen/Connolly stand end of the ground saw more action in 11 minutes than in the previous 80 as Ireland chased the game...AND gave the crowd something to cheer about.
Ireland had started well and skipper Greg Cunningham, in the number 3 shirt, came close to grabbing the lead goal after only two minutes. His surge and one-two with James Collins pushed him into too wide an angle and his low shot went wide at the far post.
Unlucky omen for the Irish, Turkey's scorer was number 13, Ouzhan Ozyakup. He had come on for
Emre Colak, the Galatasaray midfielder, just after the hour mark.
Goalkeeper McLoughlin excelled in saving from another substitute, Odabasi, at point-blank range. The number 13 had the easiest task when the ball wasnt cleared and sidefooted home.
It sealed a deserved victory. Full Length Save
Pick of the Irish last night was goalie McLoughlin -- who pulled off a spectacular first half save, a stretching full length and palming a fierce shot out for a corner.
McLoughlin has a prospective decade and a half of a professional career ahead of him is the sort of talent which might benefit greatly from a High Performance Unit type strategy/rethink in Irish soccer.
Galway native Greg Cunningham of Bristol City and Shane Duffy of Everton were always 'up' for the challenge. No other Irish player enhanced his reputation.
The big crowd had come to see, one more time, Robbie Brady of Manchester United wearing the number 11 shirt.
He was tightly marked and his play, for the most part, lacked the depth or the turn of speed you might expect from a player United named on its bench against football supremacists Barcelona earlier this month.
Brady blazed all too briefly but could have left his permanent mark on the game when Ireland had claims for a penalty in the 52nd minute. Brady's
diagonal took him past several defenders before he laid off to Aidan White. The Leeds United man was upended inside the box by a clumsy looking challenge from Ozgur Cek of trop Turkist side Fenerbahce. The Estonian referee ignored the Irish protests and on balance it seemed correct.Red Card
There was also a red card late in the game last night. Muhammet Demir, wearing No 11, obviously never heard the sacredness of the rule in sport which says never ever put your hands on the referee. Demir did the deed both before and after his red card in the 73rd minute and shocked onlookers and colleagues with his reaction. He can probably expect an extended ban. Demir had gone in hard -- and late late challenge on the Irish captain, Greg Cunningham.
Finally, Mayor of Sligo, David Cawley, was introduced to the teams on the red carpet before the kick off, accompanied by Milo Corcoran, of Waterford and Chairman of the FAI's International Committee.Republic of Ireland :
Ian McLoughlin (MK Dons), John Egan (Sunderland), Shane Duffy (Everton), Niall Canavan (Scunthorpe Utd), Greg Cunningham (Bristol City), Conor Henderson (Arsenal), Richie Towell (Unattached), O’Kane (Bournemouth), Robbie Brady (Manchester United), James Collins (Swindon Town), Aidan White (Leeds Utd). Sub : Sean Scannell (Huddersfield Town) for Henderson (82nd minute).Turkey:
Ozkan Karabulut, Ozgur Cek (Fenerbahce), Murat Akca, Serdar Aziz, Musa Nizam, Necip Uysal, Soner Aydogou; Sefa Yilmaz, Emre Colak (Galatasaray), Omer Bayram; Muhammet Demir. Subs : Ozyakup for Colak (61st minute), Sercan Yildirim for Bayram (76th min), Ismail Haktan Odabasi for Yilmaz (81st min).Referee:
Kristo Tohver (Estonia).