Ireland Un21s 1-2 England CShane Griffin, Sean Long and Pierce Sweeney all featured for Republic of Ireland’s U21s as they suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat to England C on Monday afternoon.
The defensive trio, who made up three quarters of the club’s hugely-successful U21s’ back four for the majority of the season, all gained minutes at Galway's Eamonn Deacy Park.
Griffin and Long began the clash from the off, patrolling their regular left and right-back berths respectively, with Sweeney starting proceedings on the substitute’s bench.
The opening stages were badly affected by strong winds and driving rain, and the opening opportunity did not arrive until the 33rd minute when Ireland’s Bradley Garmston crossed from Shamir Goodwin but the forward failed to get the ball under control.
Ten minutes later, the Royals’ Long chopped inside of his opposing full-back and crossed from Goodwin, who was foiled by England defender Sean Raggett.
The Reading full-back was again involved in an advanced area on the hour mark when he fired at goal but Raggett was again well placed to get a block in.
England went ahead after 65 minutes when a long-range effort from Matthew Pearson flew into the top corner of the net and they doubled their lead just two minutes later when Jordan Roberts crashed home from 25 yards.
Centre-back Sweeney was introduced 15 minutes from time and his side pulled one back 10 minutes from the end when fellow replacement Sean Maguire curled in from the edge of the box.
Sweeney, who bagged Reading’s winner in the 2-1 success over Blackburn U21s in March, came close to equalising one minute from time but he could only nod over the bar from a difficult angle.
Afterwards, Ireland U21s boss Noel King was philosophical about the defeat and pleased with parts of his side’s performance.
He said: “Obviously we wanted to win the game but overall we were happy with the opportunity to play against England C. They’re a strong, tactically-good team. It’s the type of game we have to take on in order to improve and I was happy with many aspects of our performance.
“We played some nice football for 25 minutes and scored a wonderful goal. You can ask why we weren’t able to produce those levels a bit earlier but, the fact is, we managed to reach a certain level against a good team. We need to try and extended it from being 25 minutes to 45 and then expand that boundary further.”
Ireland: Grimes (Bossin 46), Long, Desmond, Hoare (Sweeney 76), Griffin (John Kavanagh 46), Browne, Rea, Wilkinson (Maguire 46), O’Dowda (Connors 71), Garmston (Callan-Mcfadden 46), Goodwin (Sean Kavanagh 46).