Belfast Telegraph

Much-changed Republic head to Euro 2016 on disappointing note with loss to Belarus

By Damien Spellman

Mikhail Hardzeichuk and Maksim Valadzko ensured the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 dress rehearsal did not go as planned as Belarus ran out 2-1 winners at Turner's Cross.

Martin O'Neill made 11 changes to the side which drew with Holland on Friday evening, but was left with more questions than answers.

Hardzeichuk fired the visitors - who were defeated 3-0 by Northern Ireland last week - into a 20th-minute lead with a stunning strike and Valadzko doubled his side's advantage with 63 minutes gone just when it looked like the Republic had finally found their feet.

Stephen Ward reduced the deficit as the introduction of substitutes Shane Long and Wes Hoolahan gave the Republic a much-needed spark in front of an expectant crowd of 7,200, but the evening ultimately ended in disappointment, even for those men who will be on the plane next Wednesday.

It was not the way Shay Given would have wanted to mark his historic night, either.

The 40-year-old earned his 134th cap and in the process, established himself as the Republic's longest serving international as he broke Johnny Giles' record of 19 years and 202 days, with his stint now standing at 20 years and 65 days.

O'Neill would have hoped for some positives after Harry Arter left the camp after damaging a thigh muscle the previous evening and with James McCarthy having been ruled out of the final two friendlies.

But apart from Jeff Hendrick's industry and James McClean's aggression, there was little to cheer the manager as Belarus enjoyed the better of the tussle.

Rep of Ireland: Given, Christie, Keogh, Clark, Ward, McGeady, Gibson, Meyler, Hendrick, Murphy, McClean.

Unused subs: Forde (Given, 69 mins), Coleman, O'Shea, Whelan, Long (Murphy, 68 mins), Duffy, Brady, Walters, Hoolahan (Gibson, 68 mins), Quinn, O'Dowda (McGeady, 75 mins), McGoldrick, O'Kane (Meyler, 75 mins), Westwood.

Belarus: Chernik, Palyakow, Martynovich, Sivakov, Valadzko, Kislyak, Korzun, Stasevich, Hleb, Gordeichuk, Yanush.

Unused subs: Klimovich, Shitov, Politevich, Nekhaychik (Stasevich, 90 mins), Krivets (Hleb, 90 mins), Harbunow.

Referee: Dejan Jakimovksi (Macedonia)

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