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Friday 22 Oct 2021
Victory Shield campaign ends in narrow defeat

Northern Ireland's Victory Shield campaign ended with a two-goal defeat to the Republic of Ireland at the Blanchflower Stadium.

Sean Paul Murray's side went into the game knowing a win would see them end as joint winners of the tournament along with Scotland and Wales, but it was the Republic - playing only for pride - that started the brighter and rarely let the hosts push too far forward although any efforts of goal at either end were comfortably dealt with.

The first real effort of note came on 12 minutes. Cillian Mullvihill delivered a defence splitting ball when Kone Doherty ran onto only to be thwarted by a timely intervention from Northern Ireland defender Bobby Harvey.

The home side began to settle in more as the game progressed and almost moved in front on 21 minutes after Ciaran O'Hara's dipping header fell the wrong side of the far post after Kieran Morrison had crossed from the right.

Another opportunity followed not long after when Brendan Hamilton's cross from the left almost found it's way into the top right corner of the visitors goal while, at the other end, Northern Ireland keeper Jack Wilkins produced a reaction save to stop Cory O'Sullivan's effort from inside the area.

The deadlock was broken a couple of minutes from half-time, however. A momentary lapse in concentration in the home defence allowed Doherty to have a shot on goal from the left side of the area and although Wilkins did make the save the ball fell only as far as Mullvihill who duly tucked it away from the edge of the six-yard box.

Northern Ireland came within a whisker of levelling early in the second half when, barely two minutes in, Morrison delivered an inch perfect cross from the right to which O'Hara ran onto only to send his header crashing against the crossbar from the edge of the box.

A bit of a lull in proceedings saw only half chances created with the Republic's Luke Kehir perhaps coming closest with a glancing header which took a slight deflection to go out for a corner.

Needing to score to salvage something from the game, Northern Ireland upped the tempo after the hour.

Ryan Donnelly came close with a right-foot volley from the edge of the area but he couldn't keep his well struck effort from going over while substitute Jay Dalzell then had a go from 20 yards after doing well to control Fra Turley's pass.

However, as the game slipped into stoppage time, the visitors bagged their second of the afternoon to make sure of the points after Razi Najemedine fizzed over a cross from the right for the Doherty to touch home from point blank range.

Northern Ireland: Wilkins, Harvey, Hamilton, McCloskey, Briggs, Austin, Turley, Donnelly, O'Hara, McGonigle, Morrison subs Munn (not used), Dalzell (replaced Morrison 58), McDowell (replaced Donnelly 71), McToal (replaced Harvey 71), Patton (not used), Crowe (replaced McGonigle 41), McClure (not used)

Republic of Ireland: J. Healy, Mackey, O'Sullivan, Queally, Turley, Doherty, Dodd, Mullvihill, Razi, Hayden, Kehir subs O'Halloran (replaced Dodd 72), Sheeran (not used), Cannon (not used), Moore (not used), L. Healy (not used), Maher (not used), Armstrong (not used), Mooney (replaced Mullvihill 63)