Seamus Coleman unfazed by Paris memories of Thierry Henry handball

It’s taken seven years, but the Republic of Ireland will finally avail of the opportunity to exorcise some of the ghosts from the infamous ‘Hand of Gaul’ game at the Stade de France this day week when they open their Euro 2016 account against Sweden.

It will be Ireland’s first visit to the Saint-Denis venue since that heartbreaking November night when Thierry Henry’s left hand cajoled the ball to stay in play and allowed him set William Gallas up for the goal that cost Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup.

Only five of those who faced France that night — Shay Given, John O’Shea, Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan and Robbie Keane — are involved in the squad for the upcoming Euros, however.

For the rest, Paris offers a clean slate and the promise of a different kind of history.

“It was heartbreaking, but that’s long gone,” says Seamus Coleman. “Please God, we can make some good memories.”

Ireland may have stood at the brink of a major tournament that evening, but Coleman was many miles distant from such heights.

He watched the game from afar after U21 duties earlier in the week in Tbilisi and Yerevan.

An ankle injury forced him out of the second of those games, a 4-1 loss to Armenia, but he recovered in time to make his senior debut for Everton five days later when Benfica put five past them in a Europa League tie in Lisbon.

His debut for Ireland, a 3-0 win over Wales in Dublin five summers ago, went much better and, though Coleman hasn’t always managed to replicate the form he showed so often at club level with his country, he hasn’t been alone in that.

His club-mate James McCarthy, who has also earned 30-plus caps, spoke on Friday about how long it can take to feel truly comfortable in the international sphere and Coleman showed in the friendly draw with the Dutch 10 days ago what he can bring to this summer’s party. Attitude has certainly never been an issue.

“Ever since I went to Everton and came into the Ireland set-up as a young lad, maybe I was quieter or whatever, but when I train I go out to train and give it my all,” said Coleman.

“That’s a minimum you have to give every week, whether you are playing at club or international level.

“You can’t play well every week, but there is no excuse if you don’t give your all and help the team.”

Coleman has seen his role morph at Everton where the presence of Gerard Deulofeu wide on the right of midfield has curbed his attacking instincts. 

He can’t, and doesn’t, complain given the Spaniard has linked up with Romelu Lukaku consistently well after all. 

His own maturity as a player has played a part in redefining his role as well.

Coleman no longer attacks “willy nilly” and yet his ability to roam upfield seems tailor-made for an Irish team that plays so often with such a narrow midfield.

“Yeah, the last night (against the Netherlands) we played with kind of narrow midfielders so I could bomb on a bit more and thankfully I got forward a little bit. I really enjoyed getting up the pitch and trying to make things happen.

“It just depends what formation or what game it is, or what winger I’m up against.

“I’m an attacking full-back who will always try to get forward, but sometimes you have to use your head and know when not to go.”

Ultimately, it’s all about business now and he is confident business can be good.

“I can’t see why we can’t do well in this group. We have to come and speak to you (the media) and say all the right things but I genuinely believe that.

“It’s all well and good me saying it to you lads, we have to go out and do it. Hopefully, we can and make a memory for ourselves.”

Here's a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Where did Roberto Martinez fail at Everton?

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