Almost half of all applicants for a much-publicised defence forces recruitment drive were deemed ineligible for the posts on offer.

Figures released by defence minister Willie O'Dea show 2,786 initial applications were received for just 42 cadetships. But 1,251 of these failed to meet the necessary initial criteria to apply for the competition. The most popular posts on offer were with the naval service, the figures released in a Dáil reply show.

Despite having only 12 cadetships available, the naval service attracted 1,101 applications. More than half of these (553) were ineligible.This compares with 1,685 applications received for the remaining 30 posts with the army.

More than a third (698) of applications failed to make it past the first stage.

About half of all remaining applications came from gra-duates.