By Glenn Mason

Simon Cox grabbed a late equaliser for the Republic of Ireland as they drew 1-1 with the Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium.

The striker skipped past defender Tomas Sivok and cleverly beat Petr Cech at the near post to level what had been a dull game.

Milan Baros had put the visitors ahead five minutes into the second half after Jan Rezek's reverse pass found him in space.

There was standing ovation for Sunderland winger James McClean as he earned his first cap as a late second half substitute.

The Derry man had been the subject of much media coverage before kick-off. However, it was another substitute who will make the headlines.

Credit goes to Keith Andrews for dispossessing Daniel Kolar to set up the chance. But Cox did brilliantly to escape the otherwise excellent Sivok and squeeze the ball past Cech.

Although the Czechs were the better side overall, Giovanni Trapattoni will take some comfort from, the goal apart, the way his team played without the ball.

It could prove to be a useful exercise come the summer, when his team will need to defend for long periods.

Trapattoni named his strongest available side, with the lack of friendly games between now and May leaving little room for experimentation.

Shane Long benefited from Kevin Doyle's absence to start up front, while Darren O'Dea took the place of the injured Richard Dunne at centre-half.

Injury denied the Czechs the services of captain Tomas Rosicky, with Petr Cech taking his armband and Jiri Stajner his place.

Both sides wasted good chances in a lively opening five minutes. Long headed Aiden McGeady's cross at Cech, while Shay Given kept out Stajner's near post drive.

Given survived a nervy moment when his clearance was blocked by Rezek, but he recovered in time to beat Stajner to the rebound.

Andrews' long ball then caught out Czech defence. Keane controlled brilliantly but Cech was quick off his line to block the shot.

Minutes later, Cech was stranded as John O'Shea glanced on Damien Duff's free-kick and the Chelsea keeper was happy to see the ball go wide.

The visitors were tidy in possession and a period of Czech keep-ball only ended with O'Dea making a crucial challenge on Baros inside the box.

Ireland were twice briefly down to ten men as Glenn Whelan and Andrews received for mouth and knee injuries in a physical encounter.

The tempo slowed as the half wore on and the Mexican Wave appeared as early as the half hour.

However, Given was alert on the stroke of half-time to keep out a strike from Rezek after the wide man had stepped inside O'Shea.

Just minutes later Ireland were badly caught out as the Czechs went ahead. The defence was drawn to Rezek, whose clever reverse pass found Baros in space and he slid the ball past Given.

Ireland appealed for offside but replays showed Stephen Ward had stayed goalside of Baros.

Rezek was involved again soon after as the visitors pushed for a second but his curling shot flew wide of Given's post.

Stephen Hunt, Paul Green, Jonathan Walters were all introduced in the second half as Trapattoni went someway to emptying his bench of its 11 substitutes.

McGeady's trickery gave him the chance to whip over a dangerous ball. O'Dea's header was powerful but easily saved by Cech. The goalkeeper then smothered two long-range strikes from Andrews and Green as Ireland pressed for an equaliser.

The substitution that the majority of the 37,741 in attendance wanted to see came with 12 minutes left as McClean replaced McGeady.

The crowd cheered every touch by McClean and he showed in his brief appearance that he is prepared to work going forward and back.

Just as it looked as if the home fans would go home disappointed, Cox intervened to send them home in better spirits.

Republic of Ireland: 1 Given; 2 O'Shea, 4 St Ledger, 5 O'Dea, 3 Ward; 7 McGeady (26 McClean '79), 6 Whelan (25 Green '63), 8 Andrews, 11 Duff (12 Hunt 63); 9 Long (17 Walters '71), 10 Keane (24 Cox '71).

Subs not used: 13 Foley, 14 Duffy, 16 Forde, 20 Coleman, 22 McCarthy, 23 Henderson.

Czech Republic: 1 Cech; 2 Gebreselassie (12 Rajtoral 67), 6 Sivok, 3 Kadlec, 5 Limbersky; 19 Jiracek (17 Hubschmann h/t), 13 Plasil; 7 Petrzela (14 Pilar '67), 9 Rezek (8 Pekhart '88), 10 Stanjer (18 Kolar '59); 15 Baros (21 Lafata '59).

Sub not used: 4 Ranjoch, 11 Pudil, 16 Drobny.

Referee: Manuel Jorge Neves Moreira de Sousa (Portugal)

Attendance: 37,741.