Sunday 25 September 2016

Match Report: Allez les Verts! Ireland in dreamland as Robbie Brady strikes late to down Italy

Ireland 1 Italy 0

Miguel Delaney

Published 22/06/2016 | 20:11

Republic of Ireland's Robbie Brady scores his side's first goal
Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy misses a chance to score

Ireland are through to the last 16 of Euro 2016 after a historic night in Lille.

  • Go To

That a jubilant Roy Keane was virtually in tears was not the only distinctive and unique thing about this magic night in Lille.

Daryl Murphy battles with Leonardo Bonucci and Thiago Motta. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Daryl Murphy battles with Leonardo Bonucci and Thiago Motta. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
The Republic of Ireland team huddle before the match against Italy and Republic of Ireland at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France. Photo by Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland supporters ahead of the pivotal Group E match against Italy in Lille, . Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Daryl Murphy of Republic of Ireland in action against Thiago Motta of Italy Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland supporters in flying form in Lille, France. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Antonio Conte . Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
James McClean against Federico Bernardeschi . Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Simone Zaza of Italy in action against Shane Duffy . Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile
Alessandro Florenzi of Italy is tackled by Jeff Hendrick. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Angelo Ogbonna of Italy in action against Shane Long. Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile
Federico Bernardeschi challenges Stephen Ward. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Shane Long reacts after a tackle . Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
James McCarthy clears the ball from Simone Zaza . Photo by Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Jeff Hendrick leaping towards Ciro Immobile. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Federico Bernardeschi bundles over James McClean. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Shane Long remonstrates with Referee Ovidiu Hategan Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

This Irish team have once again done something truly distinctive, something truly different in the country’s football history.

Just like with the 1-0 win against Germany, they have won when they needed to, in a situation that seemed close to impossible.

Impossible was nothing, because Ireland gave everything.

This was a night of redemption that also reflected the spirit that has taken this team so far.

Shane Long remonstrates with Referee Ovidiu Hategan Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Shane Long remonstrates with Referee Ovidiu Hategan Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Federico Bernardeschi bundles over James McClean. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's James McClean gestures towards referee Ovidiu Hategan after being challenged by Italy's Federico Bernardeschi in the penalty area
22 June 2016; James McClean of Republic of Ireland in action against Federico Bernardeschi of Italy during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Italy and Republic of Ireland at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Jeff Hendrick leaping towards Ciro Immobile. Photo by Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
James McCarthy clears the ball from Simone Zaza . Photo by Ray McManus / Sportsfile

Martin O’Neill got all of his big decisions right, the team kept going despite so much going against them in this match, and - to epitomise it all - Wes Hoolahan responded to what seemed a crushing moment with the delivery that lifted everything.

The substitute playmaker had squandered what seemed an easy chance in the 83rd minute and looked despondent. If it affected him, it was only in a very positive way. He immediately whipped in one of the crosses of the tournament, allowing Robbie Brady to head home, so Ireland aren’t going home.

It was a cross in fact reminiscent of one of Brady’s superb efforts, and that made him such a fitting scorer. He was the one causing Italy’s defence the most trouble throughout the game with his deliveries.

It was the excellent Jeff Hendrick that was causing Italy’s whole team the most problems in general.

He set the tone by trying that brilliantly struck long shot on 10 minutes, and set the pace in midfield with his runs and assertive passing. That is an amazing thing to say when you consider that one of the opposition midfielders was a former Champions League winner like Thiago Motta, rather than one who has been playing in the Championship with Derby County.

Even if all of this must be put in the context of a much-changed Italian side that had never played together, neither had Ireland’s.

O’Neill does deserve huge credit for the bravery of his line-up, as it led to one of the bravest displays of his era.

It was even more creditable that they didn’t initially miss the playmaker, nor the first-choice central defensive partnership and most used midfielder. All of Richard Keogh, Daryl Murphy, James McClean and - especially - Shane Duffy did fine jobs. There was just more verve about the entire team.

While there was no cohesion in the Italian team with their changes, there was plenty in Ireland’s.

Everything just worked out, as O’Neill promised.

That is summed up by the introduction of Hoolahan. It just ended up being a masterstroke.

This was a magical night, quite possibly one of the greatest.

IRELAND: Randolph, Coleman, Keogh, Duffy, Ward; McClean, Hendrick, McCarthy, Brady, Long, Murphy.

ITALY: Sirigu, De Sciglio, Ogbonna, Zaza, Florenzi, Motta, Immobile, Sturaro, Barzagli, Bonucci (c), Bernardeschi.

Much, much more to follow

Read more here:

Online Editors

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport