No Turkish delight as play-off ends in melee

OF all Ireland’s play-off defeats, this one was the hardest to take.

It ended with Tony Cascarino being punched and kicked on his way off the pitch at the Ataturk Stadium – by a fan – and when the dust settled the Turks blamed our Cas for the entire melee.

It was a fittingly glum end to a campaign that had promised so much.

Famously, Ireland were only 12 seconds away from qualifying before Macedonia’s Goran Stavreski headed home an equaliser in Skopje but that was merely the most dramatic example of Ireland’s penchant for late gifts in that campaign.

Davor Suker had done something similar for Croatia in Zagreb to deprive Ireland of a crucial point and that inability to protect a lead (sound familiar?) came back to haunt Mick McCarthy’s side in the first leg against Turkey.

Turkey had failed to qualify for the 1998 World Cup but they arrived in Dublin bearing all the hallmarks of a team confident of progressing to the European Championships in Belgium and Holland, where they would reach the quarter-final stage.

There were signs of their capability during the first leg in Dublin. Goalkeeper Rustu Recber was named as man of the match but Turkey had more than enough possession to merit the draw they took home with them. And yet, it could have been so much better for Ireland. Robbie Keane gave the home side the lead with just 12 minutes to go but there was still half of that to play when Lee Carsley handled and Tayfur Havutcu converted from the spot. Just to make matters worse, Robbie Keane picked up his second yellow of the campaign soon after. That ruled him out of a return leg.

The second leg was a disappointment.

Turkey created any number of chances but failed to convert due, in the main, to Dean Kiely who deputised superbly for the injured Shay Given and Alan Kelly.

Hakan Suker came closest with a header that hit the bar and, though one goal would have been enough for the visitors, that late equaliser in Lansdowne Road always threatened to be the game breaker.

So it proved.

McCarthy’s side launched a late siege in a desperately quest for a precious goal, but it coughed up little apart from a flurry of corners.

For the third time in three campaigns, Ireland had failed to find the key to unlock the play-off door.

(First leg)

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alan Kelly (Blackburn), Stephen Carr (Tottenham), Gary Breen (Coventry), Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon), Denis Irwin (Manchester Utd), Rory Delap (Derby), Roy Keane (Manchester Utd), Lee Carsley (Blackburn), Kevin Kilbane (West Brom), Tony Cascarino (AS Nancy), Robbie Keane (Coventry).

Subs: Damien Duff (Blackburn) for Rory Delap 53, Dean Kiely (Charlton) for Alan Kelly 61, David Connolly (Wolves) for Tony Cascarino 75.

TURKEY: Rustu, Tayfun, Abdullah, Ali Eren, Alpay, Ogun, Sergen, Umit, Tayfur, Hakan Unsal, Hakan Suker. Subs: Arif for Umit 45, Tugay for Unsal 68, Korkmaz for Sergen 86

Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden).

(Second leg)

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Dean Kiely (Charlton), Stephen Carr (Tottenham), Denis Irwin (Manchester Utd), Gary Breen (Coventry), Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon), Roy Keane (Manchester Utd), Rory Delap (Derby), Mark Kinsella (Charlton), Niall Quinn (Sunderland), David Connolly (Feyenoord), Kevin Kilbane (West Brom).

Subs: Jeff Kenna (Blackburn) for Stephen Carr 6, Damien Duff (Blackburn) for David Connolly 69, Tony Cascarino (Nancy) for Jeff Kenna 80.

TURKEY: Rustu, Ali Eren, Ogun, Alpay, Okan, Tayfur, Tayfun, Abdullah, Arif, Sergen, Hakan Sukur. Subs: Engin for Rustu 37, Fatih for Tayfun 45, Umit for Arif 83.

Referee: G Veissiere (France).

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