On the face of it, Ireland’s victory over Germany was the result of a Darren Randolph three iron and Shane Long putting past Manuel Neuer.
But listen to skipper John O’Shea in the bowels of Aviva Stadium on Thursday night and you realise it went back a lot further than that — right to Tbilisi.
The words spirit, attitude and camaraderie were more prominent than others as O’Shea revisited the evening’s drama with a smile.
At the heart of it all was the influence of Martin O’Neill, the man whose managerial worth was questioned over the past year, but who clearly retained a priceless influence in the sanctity of the dressing room. “A manager is always going to be asked questions when things aren’t going so well or performances aren’t up to scratch but the management team have built up a great camaraderie in the squad,” O’Shea said.
“You’ve seen that in the impact that the subs have had coming on in games, the late goals we’ve been able to get. It’s not by accident.
“There’s a great spirit amongst the lads and hopefully we’ll see it again on Sunday. [Martin] was delighted with the result. He doesn’t want players happy when they’re not picked in the team but the reaction Shane [Long] gave was amazing. He comes on and gives everyone a big belief. Thankfully, Shane got that goal and I think it shows the attitude that the lads, the squad, has shown, that the management team have built up around the squad ever since the start of the campaign, with Aiden’s late goal out in Georgia. Thursday night was another big moment but you saw the reaction from a player that the manager wants.”
Long’s first touch to control Randolph’s punt could easily have sent the ball out of reach, but this was a night when everyone in green grasped the opportunities in front of them.
“The performance is a credit to the lads that came in as well,” O’Shea said. “Wardy, Cyrus and Richie... then you lose Shay early on in the game, you know you are going to need your subs later on because the boys were putting in so much of a shift. Big credit goes to Robbie Brady when he went in at left-back.
“Little Wes... the shift he put in for us! The way he kept the ball at vital times to help us to get a breather and recover while Darren Randolph was amazing when he came on.”
As if to illustrate the strength of O’Shea’s point on squad spirit, one has to look only at the players that didn’t play on Thursday. Seamus Coleman and Glenn Whelan will expect to feature in Poland on Sunday, while Robbie Keane was an unused sub.
But O’Shea was keen to emphasise the strength of the collective. “It will be a team effort and we have shown that all through the campaign,” he said.
“We have the best defensive record in the campaign and that’s not just come from the defenders, it’s the goalkeepers, the midfield unit and the players have stuck together and give it everything together and we’ll do that again on Sunday.
“We’ll be confident of causing them problems. We have Shane Long, Daryl Murphy, Jonny Walters and Robbie Keane, plenty of players to cause them problems. Now we’ve beaten Germany, we’ve the confidence of knowing there’s a freedom there, that the playoffs are taken care of and you have a real chance. There will be a little bit more pressure on Poland at home. They are fully aware of what we’ve done and the confidence that we’ll get from beating Germany.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved