Wes Hoolahan’s magic and the other defining moments as Ireland qualified for the last-16

Ger McCarthy picks out the moments that made it a nervous and ultimately joyous evening.

Wes Hoolahan’s moment of magic

Robbie Brady is congratulated by assistant manager Roy Keane on the pitch at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. Photo: John Walton/PA
Robbie Brady is congratulated by assistant manager Roy Keane on the pitch at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. Photo: John Walton/PA

Wes Hoolahan produced a moment of magic just when it appeared the Republic of Ireland were set for an ignominious exit from Euro 2016.

Tied at 0-0 and straight through on goal, Hoolahan wasted a terrific late chance to break the deadlock but made up for that error by supplying a delicious cross for Robbie Brady to thump home a header and send Ireland into the last sixteen.

Hoolahan has been Ireland’s standout player at these European Championships and underlined his creative importance to Martin O’Neill’s side when it mattered most.

Ireland denied two clear-cut penalties

James McClean appeals for a penalty. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
James McClean appeals for a penalty. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

A flustered Italian defence were fortunate not to concede two first half penalties when Ireland’s incessant pressure saw Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardsechi forced into drastic action.

First, Bonucci’s flailing arm knocked Shane Long over in the penalty area prior to an Irish corner before James McClean was taken down from behind in the box by a clumsy Bernardsechi tackle.

Neither indiscretion was punished by referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan nor his team of officials who had a clear view of both incidents. A converted Republic of Ireland penalty would have changed the course of the game.

Seamus Coleman’s ‘reducer’

Italy’s Angelo Ogbonna vies for the ball with Daryl Murphy and Seamus Coleman. AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
Italy’s Angelo Ogbonna vies for the ball with Daryl Murphy and Seamus Coleman. AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

Aggressive and determined from the opening minute, Ireland never allowed Italy time to settle and were the better team for long stretches of a sometimes frenetic encounter.

Irish captain Seamus Coleman set the tone with a crunching tackle in the first minute similar to Roy Keane’s famous challenge on Holland’s Marc Overmars at the beginning of a 2002 World Cup qualifier in Dublin.

In Lille, it was Coleman who laid down a marker and his teammates followed suit with Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick lucky not to be yellow carded for equally over-zealous tackles.

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