Wednesday 26 October 2016

Jonathan Walters salutes heroic Republic after his brace books Euro place

Published 16/11/2015 | 21:56

Jonathan Walters, right, celebrates after opening the scoring for Martin O'Neil's men
Jonathan Walters, right, celebrates after opening the scoring for Martin O'Neil's men

Two-goal hero Jonathan Walters paid tribute to his fellow players after the Republic of Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 with a 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Dublin to secure a 3-1 aggregate play-off victory.

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Walters scored a first-half penalty and put the seal on qualification with a volley after the break and he was quick to praise the team effort.

The Stoke striker told Sky Sports 1: "The whole team on the pitch are heroes. We got there in the end, we did it the hard way, but we got there.

"You've got to take it in because these moments don't come round often in a career."

Asked about the contribution of manager Martin O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane, Walters said: "They've been excellent through the whole campaign."

Derby defender Richard Keogh said: "It's an unbelievable feeling. We played really well. We got the (first) goal and we defended really well.

"For me to play for my country means the world to me. I've stepped up to the plate. I'm going to enjoy it."

West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph has not been first-choice goalkeeper throughout the qualifying campaign, but said he would savour the moment after helping his country make it to France.

"It's unbelievable. We're through and that's all that matters," he said.

Norwich midfielder Robbie Brady provided the free-kick which led to Walters' second goal, his delivery cleared by a defender only as far as the Stoke striker at the far post.

Brady said: "It's the type of thing you grow up dreaming about. Everyone involved was excellent and we did everything we needed to and now we're off to France.

"I'm so proud of everyone involved. When things got tough I'm sure everyone involved has been through it before and we stuck together."

O'Neill said the decision to bring Roy Keane in as his assistant had more than paid off.

"Bringing Roy Keane in is as good a decision as I've made in quite some time," said O'Neill.

"He's been absolutely enormous for us. He's not taking too many of the accolades, but he's been fantastic for us, for myself, the backroom staff and the players."

O'Neill also praised the players who had made it to Euro 2016.

" I couldn't be more proud (of the players), they've been absolutely fantastic right from the start (of qualifying)," he added.

"The esteem I hold these players in it couldn't be higher.

"T his is a special night. It is very, very special, it can't be taken away from us.

"When I look back I'll think this is a very, very proud moment."

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