Robbie Keane: Credit goes to whole squad for Euro 2016 qualification
Published 17/11/2015 | 13:11
Skipper Robbie Keane has paid tribute to the collective effort which carried the Republic of Ireland into the Euro 2016 finals.
Martin O'Neill selected his 23 men for the play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina from an initial list of 39, and some of those who did make the cut as a result of injury, suspension or selection decisions had previously played significant roles.
And so while it was Robbie Brady who claimed the headlines with his first-leg goal in Zenica on Friday and Jonathan Walters who was the hero of Monday's 2-0 victory in the return, Keane was quick to praise all those who had contributed to qualification.
The 35-year-old, who himself sat on the bench for the final two games of the campaign, said: "Full credit to the whole squad.
"I'm very, very proud to be Irish and of the players who are here and the players who are not here also, the players who have contributed as well, the Shays [Given], the Stephen Quinns, Paul McShanes, people like that who have been here from the start.
"It's a shame they are not here tonight to celebrate."
Keane was one of the men who suffered the heartache of World Cup play-off defeat in France in 2009 when Thierry Henry's handball cost the Republic dear.
Six years on, it was they who got the benefit of a questionable decision when Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers harshly ruled that Bosnia-Herzegovina defender Ervin Zukanovic had handled Daryl Murphy's cross, and in Keane's absence, Walters duly obliged from the spot to send the Republic on their way.
The LA Galaxy striker said: "Listen, we got lucky, certainly, with the penalty. In the first half, we didn't create too many chances, but we kept going. But what we did at times, we did very, very well.
"The lads up front - I thought Jonny Walters was great again, he got two goals he certainly deserved. He's been fantastic in this whole campaign."
The tie remained in the melting pot - a Bosnia equaliser would have taken the game to extra-time at that point - until Walters volleyed home a second 20 minutes from time from Brady's free-kick after the Norwich winger, who was once again employed at left-back, had failed to make the most of a series of earlier set-pieces.
Brady said: "I fancied it despite the 10 brutal ones I had before that. I knew I had to get one right. I'm just glad Jonny stuck with me.
"We had a chat about where I wanted him to go when I was hitting it and he stuck with me, to be fair, and got on the end of it and put away the second goal excellently.
"One out of 10 is not great, but when it means as much as that, I'll take it all day."
Brady, 23, has emerged as one of the rising stars of the Ireland squad during the campaign and was thrilled to have been involved in their big night.
He said: "It was just a special night. You grow up dreaming of these type of moments. It's a bit of a cliche, but you really do.
"This has always been my dream, to play in front of an Irish support as good as tonight. You don't want to let anyone down and it would have been an awful shame with the results that we picked up to let everyone down.
"I'm happy for everyone involved - bring on France!"