Republic of Ireland 1-2 Belarus

Jeff Hendrick battles for possession with Maksim Valadzko

Jeff Hendrick battles for possession with Maksim Valadzko

The Republic of Ireland lost 2-1 to Belarus in Cork in their final warm-up game before the Euro 2016 finals.

Mikhail Hardzeichuk scored the opener with a spectacular strike in the first half, while Maksim Valadzko drove home the second after the interval.

Burnley defender Stephen Ward pulled one back with a well-struck shot but the Republic were unable to force an equaliser.

It was only a second defeat in 14 games for Martin O’Neill’s side

Arter ruled out of Euros prior to kick-off

O’Neill suffered a setback before kick-off when Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter was ruled out of the Euro finals with a thigh problem sustained in training on Monday.

Arter had made a strong case for inclusion in the squad with a lively performance in the 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in Dublin on Friday night.

Robbie Keane missed the game because of a calf muscle injury, while James McCarthy, recovering from a thigh problem, also sat out the match.

Both were subsequently deemed fit enough to be included in the 23-man squad announced by O’Neill after the game.


Cyrus Christie challenges Ihar Stasevich during the match at Turner’s Cross

Final audition in last warm-up game

The contest represented a final opportunity for players to force their way into the squad, with a number of tight calls anticipated.

Midfielder Darron Gibson and winger Aiden McGeady, both out of favour at Everton, were handed starting roles, along with versatile Hull City player David Meyler, in a team which showed 11 changes from the side that drew with the Dutch.

Gibson was not named in O’Neill’s squad for the finals later in the evening, but Meyler impressed enough to ensure that he will travel to France.

The Irish open their Group E campaign against Sweden on Monday, 13 June.

Belgium will be their next opponents on 18 June, with their final group game against Italy on 22 June.


Mikhail Hardzeichuk put Belarus ahead in the first half with a stunning strike

Belarus end goal drought

Having lost 3-0 to Northern Ireland in Belfast four days ago, Belarus belied the fact that they lie 46 places behind their opponents in the Fifa rankings by scoring their first goal in five games in the 20th minute.

Hardzeichuk unleashed a sweet long-range right-foot shot into the top corner for his fourth goal in his 12th international appearance.

The visitors, who failed to qualify for Euro 2016, looked the livelier side throughout the opening half and almost made the Republic pay further for their lack of urgency when Shay Given was forced into a fine save from Valadzko.

Second comes against the run of play

The hosts looked livelier after the interval as an unmarked Daryl Murphy headed over from McGeady’s right-wing cross and Ciaran Clark went close with another header.

Clark saw a further headed effort palmed away by Syarhey Chernik, with the Belarusian goalkeeper then denying Jeff Hendrick from the rebound.

Valadzko turned inside Cyrus Christie to fire home a right-foot shot on 63 minutes, before Ward’s left-foot drive for his third international goal in the 72nd reduced the deficit.

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