Monday 26 September 2016

Five things we learned as Ireland join Europe's elite in France 2016

Published 16/11/2015 | 21:48

Ireland's striker Jonathan Walters (C) celebrates after scoring his team's first goal from a penalty
Ireland's striker Jonathan Walters (C) celebrates after scoring his team's first goal from a penalty
Jon Walters of Republic of Ireland celebrates after he scoring from the penalty spot during the Euro 2016 play-off second leg match between the Republic of Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Aviva Stadium
Jon Walters #14 of the Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier play off, second leg match between Republic of Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium
Jon Walters (R)of the Republic of Ireland is congratulated by teammates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier play off, second leg match between Republic of Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium
Jon Walters of the Republic of Ireland controls the ball under pressure from Sead Kolasinac of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier play off, second leg match between Republic of Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium
Jon Walters #14 of the Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Walters celebrates scoring their first goal Reuters / Cathal McNaughton
16 November 2015; Darren Randolph, Republic of Ireland. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; James McCarthy, Republic of Ireland, in action against Haris Medunjanin, Bosnia and Herzegovina. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Edin Deko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in action against Wes Hoolahan and Jeff Hendrick, Republic of Ireland. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Miralem Pjanic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in action against James McCarthy, Republic of Ireland. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Ciaran Clark, 12, Republic of Ireland, makes a defensive headder under pressure from Bosnia and Herzegovina. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill celebrates after Jonathan Walters scored his side's first goal. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
i16 November 2015; Daryl Murphy, Republic of Ireland, in action against Edin Cocalic, Bosnia and Herzegovina. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Jonathan Walters, Republic of Ireland, in action against Sead Kolainac, Bosnia and Herzegovina. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Supporters cheer as members of the Republic of Ireland team celebrate after Jonathan Walters scored their side's first goal from a penalty. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Jonathan Walters, 14, Republic of Ireland, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal from a penalty with team-mate Daryl Murphy. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
16 November 2015; Jonathan Walters, right, Republic of Ireland, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal from a penalty with team-mate Daryl Murphy. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Senad Lulic (rear) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Jeff Hendrick (right) and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Ognjen Vranjes (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Walters (right) has a chance saved by Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (left) during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Daryl Murphy and Bosnia & Herzegovina's Ervin Zukanovic Reuters / Cathal McNaughton Livepic
Republic of Ireland's Daryl Murphy (right) and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Emir Spahic (left) battle for the ball in the air during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
General view as players and fans pause during a minutes silence in memory of the Paris attacks before the match Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith
Seamus Coleman of the Republic of Ireland is tackled by Senad Lulic of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier play off, second leg match between Republic of Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Edin Deko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in action against James McCarthy, Republic of Ireland. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Walters scores their first goal with a penalty Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic
A Republic of Ireland supporter ahead of the game. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Play-off, 2nd Leg, Republic of Ireland v Bosnia and Herzegovina. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Walters (right) and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Ognjen Vranjes (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Robert Brady (right) and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Edin Cocalic (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Asmir Begovic saves an attempt on goal by Republic of Ireland's Daryl Murphy during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Asmir Begovic during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Jeff Hendrick during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Jeff Hendrick (right) and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Ognjen Vranjes (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Jeff Hendrick during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland's Daryl Murphy during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg at the Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland fans Shane Peppard (centre) with his son Clayton, aged 9, (left) and nephew Sean, 12, from Clondalkin during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoff second leg between Republic of Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Republic of Ireland's Richard Keogh and Ciaran Clark as Bosnia & Herzegovina's Haris Medunjanin looks dejected after missing a chance to score Reuters / Cathal McNaughton Livepic
Bosnia & Herzegovina's Haris Medunjanin looks dejected after missing a chance to score Reuters / Cathal McNaughton Livepic
Bosnia & Herzegovina's Haris Medunjanin looks dejected after missing a chance to score Reuters / Cathal McNaughton Livepic
Republic of Ireland's players during a minutes silence in memory of the Paris attacks before the match Reuters / Cathal McNaughton Livepic

Pack your bags! Ireland are heading to France 2016 after beating Bosnia 2-0 at the Aviva Stadium. Here's five things we gleaned from a historic night for Irish football.

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1) Ireland are going to Euro 2016!

We may as well start with the obvious. Ireland have booked their place at Euro 2016 in France after a 2-0 win over Bosnia Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium. After drawing 1-1 at home with Scotland back in June, it looked like qualification had escaped Ireland but they have improved massively in the fixtures since and deserve their place.

They still don't hold onto the ball as well as they should, but they boast an almost airtight defence and a handy ability to score at crucial times that could see them cause a shock this summer.

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2) Jon Walters Cements His Hero Status

Throughout this qualification campaign, Jon Walters has driven Ireland forward. Martin O'Neill has used him in different roles, both up front and wide on the left, and the Stoke attacker has delivered tireless and effective performances regardless of position.

Tonight he added two more important home goals to add to those he scored against Scotland and Georgia, and it means he will always have a special place in Irish football history. Not only did he dispatch his penalty clinically, but he did so in the face of some sledging from the Bosnian players and he also kept his nerve to volley home his second.

Walters showed great bottle and he will no doubt step up again this summer in France.

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3) Ireland have ever-growing defensive options

Before last Friday's first leg in Bosnia, the prospect of taking the field without John O'Shea seemed particularly daunting. But after two solid displays from Ireland's defensive triangle of Darren Randolph, Ciaran Clark and Richard Keogh, it seems now that Martin O'Neill has a defence capable of stopping some of Europe's most dynamic attacks.

Randolph has looked very composed since coming in off the bench against Germany while Keogh and Clark have combined very well over the two playoff legs. It will be welcome selection headache for Martin O'Neill when he picks his starting centre backs in France.

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4) O'Neill gets his selection right

Martin O'Neill's first campaign as Ireland manager has been marked by his regular desire to throw a curveball when selecting his team. With Jon Walters back from suspension, O'Neill had a decision to make and he decided to play Robbie Brady at left back and bring Walters in for Stephen Ward. The decision paid off as Ireland made regular raids down the left wing while Walters was the two-goal hero.

Also, O'Neill has persisted in playing Daryl Murphy and the striker repaid his manager's faith by supplying the cross that was handled for the Irish penalty.

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5) The manager deserves a new contract

It took until after the mid-point in this campaign, but Ireland finally seem to have an identity under Martin O'Neill - a defensively solid side who are clinical when given a chance in attack.

The performances have improved dramatically since Ireland's disappointing draw with Scotland and O'Neill can take a lot of credit for that. There is always a danger when extending a manager's contract before a tournament - how did that work out for Giovanni Trapattoni in 2012? - but O'Neill's role in Ireland renaissance deserves to be rewarded.

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