Roy Keane has always railed against the concept of moral Irish victories but his namesake Robbie spoke for the entire squad and staff when he said Tuesday night’s draw with Germany felt as good as collecting all three points.
“The feeling in the dressing room is it feels like a win,” said the team captain. “When you score in the last second of the game then it’s full credit to every player. It was always going to be a difficult game.
“You were playing against a team that was always going to be better than you possession-wise and it needed for the players to work their absolute socks off and show that fighting spirit. We got our rewards in the end.”
Keane smiled and nodded his head when asked if the manner and timing of the equaliser prompted memories of Ibaraki at the World Cup in 2002 when he secured another 1-1 draw and progress from the group stages with a similar last-gasp goal.
“I think we have that spirit back now. I wouldn’t say it was gone before but we lacked a little bit of belief. Ever since this new campaign there is a belief in the squad we can get anything out of any game.
“We spoke all week … as soon as we finished the Gibraltar game the players were sitting down talking to each other and we said we could get something out of this game. Even at half-time we felt that. When there is only one goal in a game you are always hanging in there with an opportunity to get something. You have to keep the score down as much as you can.
“You don’t want them to score, but if they do it is still only 1-0. There’s always that chance if that is the case.”
The post-mortem was in full swing in Germany almost immediately and carried through yesterday as the tired but satisfied Irish supporters trickled out of Dusseldorf Airport in dribs and drabs.
Home fans and media already asking questions about World Cup hangovers and fretting over injured superstars after the Poland defeat only intensified the debate.
But Keane wasn’t interested in poking holes in the hosts and, by association, Ireland’s achievement.
If Germany suffered, he said, it was thanks to the Irish.
“I think (their problems) were more down to us than them. I mentioned before about the work-rate from every player trying to stop them having opportunities. They had one in the first few minutes when they hit the crossbar.
“After that I can’t remember too many opportunities. The goal was a great finish. They had a lot of possession without ever really hurting us.
“The shape from everyone was very good and it was more us keeping them at bay rather than them being poor.”
It was, he admitted, one of his best nights as an Irish international even if his performance before being replaced on the hour gave credence to the view he isn’t suited to the lone striker role away from home on such occasions.
Whether Martin O’Neill now agrees with that remains to be seen but all will be revealed in Parkhead next month when Ireland take on a Scotland team similarly reinvigorated by the arrival of Gordon Strachan.
Keane spent four months on loan from Tottenham with Celtic in 2010 and, despite the brief tenure of his stay, did enough with a dozen goals in 16 games to earn the player of the year accolade from the club’s fans.
“It will be nice to go back. I haven’t been back there since, but it is a special place for any Irish player to go so I am certainly looking forward to it.”
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