It was a perfect start to the Republic’s Euro 2016 dreams in Paris, a Wes Hoolahan cracker that ignited 30,000 Irish fans at the Stade de France.
The only thing missing was the so-called luck of the Irish as Sweden grabbed a Group E point without even registering a shot on target.
Manager Martin O’Neill and skipper John O’Shea admitted the opening 1-1 draw felt like an opportunity lost, with Jeff Hendrick rattling the crossbar and John O’Shea inches away from scoring as Ireland dominated the game.
The failure to put Sweden to the sword came back to bite Ireland when centre-back Ciaran Clark turned the ball into his own net with less than 20 minutes remaining.
“We should have had the game out of sight at half-time,” the manager reflected last night.
“But we couldn’t get the goal. We’re disappointed to have conceded the equaliser, but I can’t fault our performance, the players were terrific.”
Goalscoring hero Hoolahan admitted: “Fair play to the boys, they were magnificent and unlucky not to get three points, but we’ll take the point.
“Unfortunately in the last 20 minutes, we probably let it get away from us. But the boys should be proud of themselves.”
Skipper O’Shea added : “We dominated for large spells and we coped with their spell and their crosses.
“There was just one we couldn’t keep out, but we reacted brilliantly to that and almost went back in front again. There was great courage, there were lads playing through the pain barrier so overall lots of positives.”
The Irish and Swede fans presented the acceptable face of football support as they lit in Saint-Denis with green and yellow.
“Just coming onto the field was something to behold,” said O’Neill afterwards. “The support was extraordinary.”
Before the game, in Parisian suburbs such as Clichy, Irish, Swedish, and German supporters took over thoroughfares and exchanged banter and songs. There was even an impromptu game of keepie-uppies when someone produced a ball.
President Michael D Higgins was among the 75,000 crowd yesterday and was told the Republic supporters were being lauded by local gendarmes and senior gardaí for their good behaviour.
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