10/10/2009 7:57 PM

The Republic of Ireland almost beat the World Champions at Croke Park on Saturday night but for a crucial lapse in concentration.

The Irish players weren’t jumping for joy at the final whistle. There weren’t delighted at winning a hard fought point, they were utterly dejected because they knew they left this one behind.

After a stunning effort by Glenn Whelan, Ireland’s inability to defend a simple corner meant one of the smallest Italians on the field, Camoranesi, had a free header to square the match. He didn't fail.

Late in the game, a second well executed set piece set up Ireland for another immense win against the Italians.

However, whether it is the under 12s or over 40s on any public park in the world, all players know the one thing you cannot afford to do after scoring is to switch off.

Unfortunately that is exactly what Ireland did, and a few minutes later the rapturous scenes at Croke Park were replaced by an eerie silence around GAA headquarters.

A win would have kept the group alive, and with the Cypriots hammering the Bulgarians today, seeds of doubt would have been well sown in the Italians ahead of their final game.

Instead, the champagne bottles are popping in the Italian dressing room as the Irish prepare for a meaningless match against Montenegro before they enter the dangerous waters of the playoffs.