Belfast Telegraph

Kelly relives Republic's Macedonia nightmares

By John Kerr

Alan Kelly is perfectly placed to warn the current crop of Republic of Ireland internationals how dangerous Macedonia can be.

The 42-year-old, now Giovanni Trapattoni's goalkeeping coach, was in goal the night the Republic lost 3-2 in Skopje in 1997 and again when a last-gasp Macedonian equaliser denied them automatic qualification for Euro 2000.

Memories of those two setbacks have inevitably come flooding back this week and while Kelly can raise a smile now, his emotions were very different at the time.

He said, laughing: “How dare you bring that up? It's taken me a lot of years of counselling to get over that!”

Asked what he recalled of games which have etched themselves into to the national psyche, Kelly added: “Jason McAteer getting sent off doing a Jackie Chan impression... The first time over there, we lost 3-2, two penalties, Jason got sent off. I think Alan McLoughlin scored first and upset them and they came back at us. The second one is well documented. Being nine seconds or 12 seconds from qualifying for Euro 2000, it was a sickening blow.

“When you look back now, you look back on instances and situations in your career, and you think, 'Nine seconds...'.

“I had made a save and tipped it for the corner, and I said: 'Referee, referee, the time?', and he said, 'They take the corner, I blow the whistle'. The rest is history.

“Unfortunately, it didn't go for us, but that's life, isn't it?”

Kelly will be on the bench at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening when the Republic take on their counterparts from Macedonia once again with three precious Euro 2012 qualification points at stake.

This weekend's visitors have lost on both their previous visits to Dublin, but the scars left by the wounds inflicted in the former Yugoslav republic run deep.

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