Captain John O’Shea is determined to lead the Republic of Ireland to automatic qualification for next summer’s Euro 2016 finals.
Last night’s sensational 1-0 Dublin victory over world champions Germany, thanks to Shane Long’s second-half strike, means that Ireland go into a do-or-die Group D decider in Poland on Sunday.
Victory in Warsaw would guarantee automatic qualification for Martin O’Neill’s side, as would a high-scoring draw – better than the 1-1 the Poles achieved at the Aviva Stadium – as the head-to-head record of the two sides would be used to split them.
Sunderland skipper O’Shea, who produced an impressive performance to inspire a shut-out against the Germans’ superstars, said: “We wanted to get it back in our hands and now we’ve stepped up again and showed we can go on to get automatic qualification.
“(Poland have) got some good players but we’ve shown tonight we can mix it with the best.”
Long pounced five minutes after coming on for former Sunderland striker Daryl Murphy, who led the line admirably. The substitute hero said: “I was upset (at not starting), but there are 25 players who all want to start. Everyone’s putting pressure on the starting XI.
“The manager called me with 60 minutes gone and told me to go on and make an impact. I felt I could cause trouble on the break and thankfully I did that.”
Boss O’Neill was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
Asked for his reaction on a dramatic night in Dublin, the former Sunderland manager said: “Well, naturally delighted to win the game.
“Unfortunately we have still a long way to go yet, but it was great to beat the Germans. Considering the things we had to overcome, I thought it was a fantastic effort by the players. They deserve enormous credit.
“It was a fantastic effort and Shane comes on and just scores a wonder-goal for us and gave us something to hang on to.
“I’m ecstatic that we have won the game. You would think that beating the Germans and not being beaten by them at all, the world champions, you would think that would be at least deserving of winning the tournament, but it’s not the case – we haven’t even qualified.
“But it’s been a great effort and the players showed great courage, great determination and some ability too to conjure up the win.”
Rep of Ireland: Given (Randolph 44), Christie, Keogh, O’Shea, Ward (Meyler 69), Hendrick, McCarthy, Brady, Walters, Hoolahan, Murphy (Long 65). Subs not used: Forde, McShane, O’Kane, McGoldrick, Pearce, McGeady, Keane, Doyle, Gibson. Booked: Hoolahan. Goal: Long 70.
Germany: Neuer, Ginter (Bellarabi 77), Boateng, Hummels, Hector, Reus, Gundogan (Volland 85), Kroos, Ozil, Muller, Gotze (Schurrle 35). Subs not used: Leno, Mustafi, Rudy, Schweinsteiger, Can, Kramer, Kruse, ter Stegen.