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Published: 21:30 | 31/5/16

Ireland lose to Belarus in Cork

Second string fail Euro 2016 audition

Republic of Ireland set off for France and Euro 2016 on a disappointing note as they lost 2-1 to Belarus at Turner's Cross, Cork

Martin O'Neill gave opportunities to several fringe players to state a late case for inclusion in the 23-man squad he must submit to Uefa by 11pm on Tuesday night but nobody produced a display which demanded inclusion.

Mikhail Hardzeichuk scored the opener with a spectacular strike late in the first half, which gave Shay Given no chance before Maksim Valadzko drove home the second with the aid of a hefty deflection on 63 minutes.

Burnley defender Stephen Ward pulled one back with a powerful strike with 18 minutes remaining as the hosts finally came to life after producing a poor performance in the first period.

It was only a second loss for the Republic in 14 matches and will dent some of the players' confidence ahead of the tournament opener against Sweden at the Stade de France on June 13th while others will be left to sweat it out before they learn if they have made the final cut.

Belarus are not competing in the finals after finishing fourth in Group C qualifying, with three wins and two draws from their 10 games.

The Boys In Green were dealt a blow when midfielder Harry Arter was all-but ruled out of contention for the Euro finals with a thigh problem he suffered in training on Monday, O'Neill confirming the 27-year-old had returned to his club Bournemouth to assess the full extent of the injury.

Robbie Keane missed the game - with his participation next month now in doubt - because of a calf muscle injury, while James McCarthy, recovering from a thigh injury, was also unavailable.

Everton duo Darron Gibson and Aiden McGeady were handed starts but both failed to grasp the opportunity to impress while Hull City midfielder David Meyler also produced an under-par display.

Having lost 3-0 to Northern Ireland on Friday and started as underdogs but they were ahead when Hardseichuk fired a sweet long-range shot into the top corner for his fourth international goal.

Ireland improved in the second period, particularly after Shane Long was introduced but the visitors doubled their lead when Valadzko skinned Cyrus Christie before his effort flicked off a home defender and past Shay Given.

Ward's third goal for the national team halved the arrears but Belarus held out for a comfortable win.

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