Martin O’Neill praised the courage of his charges as they made history at Aviva Stadium last night.
Shane Long’s 70th minute strike gave Ireland a first ever competitive victory over Germany, and guaranteed them at least a play-off spot — with a serious chance of automatic qualification still on offer.
The victory came in the most unlikely of circumstances, with a host of injuries and suspensions apparently culling the strength of O’Neill’s starting XI, with five Championship players starting, and Darren Randolph making his first competitive appearance off the bench.
All told, it was a remarkable battle against the odds, and O’Neill couldn’t contain his pride.
“I’m naturally delighted to win the game, unfortunately we have still a long way to go yet but it was great to beat the Germans, the world champions, considering the things we had to overcome,” he said.
“It was a fantastic effort and they deserve enormous credit.
“I played Stephen Ward at left back and knew he wouldn’t last the game and Robbie (Brady) went into midfield.
“In the first half I thought we gave away possession too easily but we were exceptionally brave in the second half.
“There was great courage to get on ball in tight situations and not panic. Then we came more into the game.
“Then Shane comes on and scores a wonder goal and gives us something to hold onto.
“I knew the half time score in Scotland and heard they had scored.
“I felt we had to go and win the game, not that we weren’t trying before the game, and the goal gave us a great lift.
“They showed great courage and determination and some ability to conjure up a result.”
Having taken nine points from the last three games, the maths are simple on Sunday — with three points or a score draw of 2-2 or more enough to guarantee automatic qualification.
O’Neill was reluctant to dwell too much on the possible positive outcomes, insisting victory is the key target.
“We most likely have to win a game or draw 2-2, 3-3, 4-4....but let’s just try and win it,” he said.
“I will think about Poland in the morning but tonight I’m genuinely delighted at the great spirit as we had to overcome a lot.”
Germany coach Joachim Low hit out at his players’ wastefulness in front of goal, and sniffed that Ireland’s goal came from their ‘100th long ball’.
“It was one of the most unnecessary defeats we have suffered in recent years,” he said.
“It was to be expected that we would face nine or 10 players behind the ball and Ireland hitting long, hopeful balls.
“They only had one opportunity to score.
“We created loads of chances but wasted too many of them.”
Wes Hoolahan said victory was the high point of his career.
The Norwich midfielder, named man of the match award, admitted his belief grew as the game progressed without Germany scoring.
“It was a brilliant win, we knew before the game it was going to be a difficult task but we dug in deep and defended really well, got them on the counterattack and what a finish by Shane,” he said.
“It’s up there, the top moment of my career, beating Germany, the world champions, at home, it’s an amazing feeling and the crowd were excellent as well.
“Longy took his chance brilliantly.
“It was an amazing goal, a good kick down the field by Darren Randolph and he’s ran onto it, a great touch and a great finish.
“It was a long last 20 minutes. A long, long time, especially against the Germans. They are the best team in the world and defending against them, the lads should be proud.
“Words can’t really describe it.
“We just needed to hold on for the win and we did. It was a great evening for us.
“To be honest we didn’t really know about the score in Glasgow so we just concentrated on playing our own game and getting a positive result and it has worked out nicely.”
Hoolahan added: “It’s in our hands now, if we beat them we get second place and hopefully it will happen,” said Hoolahan.
“It’s going to be a huge task, going away. Poland are a great team.
“But we are going there with confidence knowing we can get the result we need.”
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