'We hope we made people proud' - Seamus Coleman reflects on Ireland's Euro 2016 exit
Published 26/06/2016 | 16:31
Antoine Griezmann kept France on track for Euro 2016 glory as the hosts survived a major scare to edge the Republic of Ireland 2-1.
Griezmann's second-half double, which came inside three crucial minutes, fired his side into the quarter-finals as they eventually showed their class at the Stade de Lyon.
However, for almost an hour, Ireland, who ended the game down to 10 men after central defender Shane Duffy was dismissed for a professional foul on the Atletico Madrid star, had threatened to gatecrash the party.
They took a second-minute lead through Robbie Brady's nerveless penalty after Paul Pogba's rash challenge on Shane Long, and France were booed off by a section of their own support at the break as they failed to rectify the damage.
But, as Martin O'Neill's men tired - they last played against Italy on Wednesday night, some three days after the French completed their group-stage matches - the hosts grew in strength and eventually ran out more comfortable winners than the scoreline suggests.
Stand-in skipper Seamus Coleman was left to rue a missed opportunity to make the last eight and praised the outnumbered Irish fans in the stadium who made their presence felt throughout.
"I just felt like it was there for us today, the fans were unbelievable. We would have loved to go a bit further for them but we hope we made people proud because our fans are amazing and everybody back home is amazing," he said.
"We're just disappointed we couldn't see it out.
"There was a big deal made of the ticket allocation and hat not... we only had a little corner of the ground and they were so loud. They were so positive towards us at the end. There is a special bond between the fans and the players.
"First half we played well but we couldn't keep the door closed and as I say, we're disappointed.
"You don't want to make excuses, they had more time to prepare and rest but I don't want to make excuses, we gave it our all, and our energy levels probably did drop but it was just a shame that we couldn't get another goal.
"We're disappointed now so it's hard to think of highlights of the tournament but Robbie Brady's goal in Wednesday's game is, I'm sure, something that the fans will remember when the dust settles but at this minute, we're all disappointed."
On Shane Duffy's red card, he said: "It was one of those challenges , the lad was probably going to score if Shane didn't try to make a challenge."
The end of Ireland's Euro 2016 journey will most likely bring the curtain down on some illustrious international careers but the younger generation have proven that they can step into the breach, according to the Killybegs man.
"With Shane (Long), Jeff (Hendrick), Robbie (Brady), James (McClean) ... there is a bright future," he added.
"I don't know what the plans are for them lads but I can only speak highly of them, they have been nothing but influential to the young lads and they were people we looked up to as youngsters and we can all learn a little but from everyone of them."