There’s been a lot of talk about exits in the last few days. Ireland are out but on this showing, there’s a good chance we will be back.
For 58 minutes of Ireland’s showdown with the French, we dared to dream.
It was that man Robbie Brady again. The Baldoyle man had the country rocking after scoring a penalty after two minutes. The perfect start. Were we about to witness another Italian-type situation?
It looked good until that man Antoine Griezmann struck two killer blows. A red card followed and, well, it all petered out from there.
You could sense from the players, they felt this was a chance lost rather than a glorious exit. We may have been hanging on at the end, but for 60-odd minutes, Ireland looked the better team.
Captain Seamus Coleman said as much in his post-match interview. The Donegal man looked devastated by the result.
“We’re disappointed. We felt like it was there for us. We gave our all in the tournament and we’re just so disappointed at the minute. That shows how well we’ve done that we’re disappointed with getting beaten. It just felt like it was there for us,” he said.
For manager Martin O’Neill, it was a case of what could have been. Just like the rest of the country, he also felt for a period, his team were going to knock out the host nation.
“I thought for a few glorious minutes that we could win the game today... We needed another seven or eight minutes in the second half to see it out. They put us on the back-foot, as you would expect. They scored the goal which has given them momentum and at one-each we lost a bit of concentration in the game,” he said.
Both men felt they could have stayed in the tournament that little bit longer and wanted to give the travelling fans a couple of more days in France.
Who could blame them? The fans have charmed just about everyone it seems. One more week would have been nice.
“Our fans are unbelievable and we were all hoping that we could go a bit further for them,” said the Donegal full-back, who had another fine game on Sunday. We hope we did them proud because they’re amazing and everyone at home is amazing with their support.
“Everyone made a big deal about the ticket allocation and we only had a little corner of the ground, but they were so loud and they were so positive to us when we went over to them at the end. There is a special bond between the players and the fans,” said Coleman.
Four years ago in Poland, it was doom and gloom given the timid nature of Ireland’s performances. However, this time around, fans seem to be immensely proud of the Irish team’s performances.
The Irish spirit didn’t go unnoticed by other sports stars. MMA fighter Conor McGregor felt the team deserved more from the game.
Head held high always
We were like something out of la liga at times out there. And we lumped into tackles too. Hard luck boys #DeservedMore— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) June 26, 2016
After coming so close to winning the US Open, golfer Shane Lowry knows all about disappointment but expects Ireland to make it to the 2018 World Cup
Seriously proud of the Irish lads today and the last couple of weeks. Great performances by everyone. We will qualify for the 2018World Cup— Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) June 26, 2016
Hell, even former players for the Old Enemy were heaping praise upon us. Legendary striker Gary Lineker said Ireland gave the French “a real run for their money” and “couldn’t have given more”.
Bring on the World Cup qualifiers.
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