Ireland have suffered an agonising 4-3 extra-time defeat to Egypt in the Deaflympics football quarter finals in Bulgaria.
The Irish team had bravely twice fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to force extra time at 3-3 and at that stage they looked the most likely to progress to the semi-finals, but it was not to be.
In a subdued opening period, Ireland relied mainly on set pieces to threaten the Egypt goal with their opponents more enterprising in open play. Out of nowhere Egypt had forged a 2-0 advantage by the half hour mark and it was only at this stage Ireland sparked into life. They forced a succession of corners and this route led to the equaliser, Noel O’Donnell heading home Joe Watson’s cross in the 35th minute.
It stayed 2-1 at half time. However Ireland were rocked just minutes into the second half when hesitant defending saw them go 3-1 behind.
With their Deaflympic dreams evaporating Ireland showed tremendous spirit to launch wave after wave of attacks on the Egyptian goal. It was little surprise when Ireland reduced the deficit to 3-2 just before the hour mark, Stephen Millar firing into the net after O’Donnell’s free kick had been blocked by the keeper.
It was all one way traffic as Ireland poured forward in search of an equaliser. Brian Babb saw his shot saved after fine build up play, Millar, Watson and O’Donnell had shots blocked and Sean Young also went close.
It was going to take something special to break the Egyptian resistance and a wonder goal duly arrived from substitute Andrew Wynne in the 86th minute. After picking up a Richard Dougherty pass Wynne dribbled past two defenders and curled a delightful shot into the top corner of the net.
With Ireland on a high and Egypt visibly drained an Irish victory looked more likely in extra time. Egypt somehow regained the lead scoring with their only half chance in the entire extra 30 mins whilst some excellent play by Ireland created 12 decent opportunities, the best of which saw O’Donnell, Young and substitute Jason Maguire go agonisingly close but Ireland could just not force an equaliser and the game finished 4-3 to Egypt.
Ireland can be extremely proud of their efforts. The players gave everything for the cause but it was not destined to be. The squad must now refocus on the 5th – 8th place play-offs starting with a match against Turkey on Friday morning.
Geoff Foy commended the players for their stirring fight-back and the passion they displayed. “We are all disappointed as the players worked so hard but football can be a cruel game at times and we experienced that again tonight when so little went our way”.