Ireland draw blank

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Richard Dunne went closest to breaking the deadlock as the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifying Group Eight campaign ended in a goalless draw with Montenegro.

The Aston Villa defender hit the crossbar with a first-half header, although Ireland had a major escape after the break when Paul McShane blocked Simon Vukcevic's goal-bound shot with his arm and got away with it.

Montenegro, who won a competitive game for the first time at the weekend, gave as good as they got and skipper Branko Boskovic was left to reflect on a free header which he powered wide.

The first stage of the Republic's qualifying mission therefore ended with a whimper as a sixth draw to go with their four wins ensured they head into next month's play-off games without a defeat to their names.

But on a night when Shay Given and full-back Kevin Kilbane made 100th appearances for their country, there was little else to cheer.

Given heaved a huge sigh of relief as Montenegro sensed their chance, with unmarked captain Boskovic heading wastefully wide from full-back Milan Jovanovic's cross.

After a promising start, Ireland had lost their way - and it was not until the final few minutes of the half that they flexed their muscles once again.

Dunne was unfortunate to see his towering header from Stephen Hunt's 42nd-minute free-kick come back off the underside of the bar, and Keane fired over on the turn as the Republic put the squeeze on.

But neither side really threatened to snatch all three points in a tame conclusion which was in stark contract to the one the home fans at Croke Park witnessed on Saturday.

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Stephen Hunt
Premier League
Kevin Kilbane
Shay Given
Richard Dunne
Paul McShane
Aston Villa
Stephen Hunt

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