Ian McLoughlin turned in an impressive performance for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s last night, but ultimately, the side’s hopes of reaching the UEFA U21 Championships play-offs ended after a frustrating 2-1 defeat to Hungary.
McLoughlin was in early action as he twice denied Adam Bodi inside the opening ten minutes, but he could do little to stop Leicester City striker Marko Futacs firing home from 25-yards in the 11th minute.
The Irish had two penalty appeals waved away and, to compound their misery, Hungary broke on the counterattack and Istvan Kovacs scored from a low Futacs cross.
The Irish finally had a turn of fortune in the 39th minute when they were awarded a penalty, which was excellently put away by Robbie Brady to put Ireland right back in the game.
Hungary were handed a golden opportunity to extend their lead in controversial circumstances in the 45th minute when a strike by Futacs was charged down by Shane Duffy and the referee deemed it had struck the defender's hand.
Irish keeper McLoughlin had already made a penalty stop in this campaign and he proved his class once again when he made an impressive save to deny Futacs from the spot-kick.
The home side held firm from then on and claimed the three points. Ireland remain in third place but are still five points behind second-placed Turkey, who have completed their fixtures.
Ireland can now no longer claim second spot in Group Seven but head into their final fixture against top placed Italy at the Giuseppe Capozza Stadium in Casarano on Monday looking to end the group on a high.