JIM Crawford’s Republic of Ireland U21s were beaten 2-0 against Switzerland in the opening game of their Spanish training camp.
A goal in either half from the Swiss was enough to condemn Ireland to defeat at the Dama de Noche Football Centre, Marbella, Spain on Sunday.
Festy Ebosele, Lewis Richards, Oisin McEntee and Ryan Johansson were all handed U21 debuts by Crawford with Cork attacker Tyreik Wright and Conor Grant both earning their first U21 starts.
Ireland were comfortable in the early stages of the game but it was Switzerland who took the lead. They went ahead on 13 minutes after Ireland failed to clear a free-kick into the box. The ball fell to the feet of Leonidas Stergiou who was able to prod home.
Ireland continued to push and McEntee was close to getting on the end of a Wright cross but he couldn’t divert his header towards goals.
Wright was involved again, receiving a short corner and firing at goal but his left-footed drive went just wide of the post.
At half-time, Conor Noss was brought on for Ryan Johansson as Ireland sought a way back in the game. Kayode headed over from a corner in the 46th minute as momentum began to grow.
But it was Switzerland who scored next through a smart finish from Gabriel Bares to give them the cushion.
From then on Ireland struggled to find the breakthrough. Will Ferry was introduced for Richards in the second half and he looked to get forward as Crawford’s team pushed for a foot-hold in the game.
Brian Maher pulled off a stunning save to deny Switzerland form making it 3-0 in the 75th minute. Substitute, Gavin Kilkenny went on a weaving run late on but his effort couldn’t hit the target.
Speaking after the game U21s manager Jim Crawford said: "The message to the players is to keep their heads up. There were some passages of play they can be happy with. We'll show those to the players but we'll also show the key areas we could improve on.
"It's now about getting a more consistent way of playing positively and being creative at the top end of the pitch - we have the players here for that."
Next up for Ireland in Marbella is Australia on Wednesday. The game kicks off at noon (Irish time) and will be shown live on Premier Sports/FreeSports.
Maher; McEntee, McGuinness, Ebosele (Flynn, 75), Richards (Ferry 54); Coventry (Connell,70), Johansson (Noss, 46), Watson (Gilbert 71), Grant (Kilkenny 54); Wright, Kayode (Afolabi 54).
Blair (GK), Whelan, Rose (GK).