OUTGOING Republic of Ireland assistant manager Liam Brady says the wounds caused by the controversial World Cup play-off defeat will never heal.
Brady will quit his Ireland role after next Tuesday’s glamour friendly with Brazil at London’s Emirates Stadium to concentrate on his role as Arsenal’s head of youth development and academy director on a full-time basis.
However he admits the memory of that night in Paris when referee Martin Hansson failed to spot Thierry Henry’s now infamous handball in the build-up to the goal that ended Ireland’s World Cup dream will never leave him.
Brady said that he still found it ‘‘incredible’’ that Hansson could fail to see Henry’s transgression.
“I don’t think they (the wounds) will ever heal,’’ Brady admitted.
“When I was a player I had two close campaigns to qualify for the World Cup and never got there. I had a couple of bad decisions in Paris to qualify for 1978 and 1982, a couple of really weird decisions in Paris at the time. But this one took the biscuit.
“Not to have the goal disallowed was quite incredible. Not to have the ref or lineman see what went on was incredible.’’
Brady’s abiding memory of that November night is a sense of frustration for an opportunity missed.
“I think on the night we were the better team,’’ he said. “We maybe, slightly, have ourselves to blame a bit because we had some very good chances in that second half and I think if we had got that second goal they would have collapsed completely.
“The fact we didn’t meant the tie went into extra time but to lose it the way we did to the goal was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.’’
The incident led to calls for the introduction of technology but Brady, while in favour of introducing the system employed in this season’s Europa League – which sees officials behind each goal, feels Henry’s handball should still have been spotted.
“I would like to see the experiment that Michel Platini has put forward – we’ve seen it already in the Europa Cup where we have officials behind the goal – I think if they had been behind the goal for that particular goal they would have disallowed it without any doubt.
“But without sounding bitter I still find it hard to understand why the referee and the lineman didn’t see it even without video technology.’’
However, despite the heartbreaking end to Ireland’s attempt to reach South Africa Brady feels Ireland have made substantial progress since Giovanni Trapattoni’s arrival as manager.
“Judging by previous campaigns we never threatened to qualify,’’ Brady said. “This time around I think we were very unlucky not to qualify.
“We were unbeaten in our group. It was always going to be a task to overcome the Italians and top the group but we gave ourselves a little bit of a chance at some stages of the group.
“Our form in Dublin could have been a bit better. If we had maybe beaten Bulgaria in Dublin we might have qualified as top of the group.
“Also going to Bulgaria – it was a good result as it kept them at a distance for the play-off place – but we could have won that day too.’’
After next Tuesday’s game Brady’s role with Ireland comes to an end.
However he is confident that, despite what he views as a tough group, Ireland can overcome a group comprising of Russia, Slovakia, Macedonia, Armenia and Andorra and reach Euro 2012.
“It could have been a harder draw but for a team like Ireland nothing is easy.
“We are all very excited by the draw we’ve had. Some people are saying it’s easy but I don’t think it’s easy at all.
“I think with the team we’ve got, the spirit we’ve got and some of the players we’ve got, we can run very close to qualifying.’’
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved