Republic of Ireland 1, Northern Ireland 1

NORTHERN Ireland proved that hard work pays dividends in football when

they earned a battling draw against the Irish Republic at Lansdowne Road

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yesterday.

Bryan Hamilton, the north manager, was delighted with his side's

performance, a display that keeps alive their European Championship

qualifying hopes.

Niall Quinn opened the scoring for the Republic two minutes into the

second half, but 25 minutes later Iain Dowie headed the equaliser.

''I'm very pleased for the players,'' said Hamilton. ''I was hard on

them after the Republic beat us 4-0 in Belfast in November and I was

very hard on them in training this week. We worked hard for our point

and it was a great reward for the players, who have been under pressure

after that Belfast result.

''A defeat here would have put us out of contention but I think we are

still in it.

''Whatever the case, this will help us progress as a learning team and

give us belief that we can again become a top-class squad. It is a

wonderful boost for the people of Northern Ireland.

''The loss of a point won't hurt the Republic too much. They have a

many-talented squad, and Jack (Charlton) and I are good friends. We can

help each other with a few results in this group now and I certainly

hope they qualify.''

Charlton, the Republic's manager, was quite cheerful, despite his side

giving away their first goal -- and first point -- in four qualifying

group matches. ''We took a chance playing the ball across the back when

it wasn't necessary and got punished for it,'' he said.

''Young Gillespie made a great run and Iain Dowie headed a super goal

-- one we would have been proud of at the other end. He deserved it for

all the work he did. We have to accept we can't get everything we want.

We had a great win over the North in Belfast but it was never going to

be that way today.''

The home country dominated but hardly created a chance until two

minutes after the break, when Steve Staunton robbed Darren Patterson and

was brought down. Denis Irwin's free kick sailed across as Andy Townsend

made a decoy run, and Quinn was left unattended to volley into the net

from close range.

It seemed then that the floodgates would open. Instead, Paul McGrath

and Phil Babb appeared to leave a clearance to each other and Keith

Gillespie sped away to provide the perfect cross for an unmarked Dowie

to head home.

There were claims for penalties when first substitute Tony Cascarino,

the former Celtic striker, and then John Sheridan went tumbling in the

area. But Quinn, just four minutes before being replaced by Cascarino,

missed the best chance, heading weakly at keeper Alan Fettis.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND -- A Kelly, G Kelly, Irwin, Babb, McGrath, Keane,

Townsend, D Kelly, Quinn, Sheridan, Staunton. Substitutes -- Cascarino,

Kenna, Kernaghan, McAteer, Bonner.

NORTHERN IRELAND -- Fettis, Patterson, Worthington, Taggart, McDonald,

Morrow, Gillespie, Magilton, Dowie, Hill, Hughes. Substitutes -- Quinn,

O'Neill, Gray, Horlock, Wood.

Referee -- M van de Ende (Holland).

* GOALS after 11 minutes by Sampdoria winger Attilio Lombardo and

Parma's Gianfranco Zola, who drove in from 20 yards near half-time, gave

Italy a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in their Group 4 qualifier in Kiev.