Comment: Three subs, six touches, 12 seconds and one glorious goal
It may have felt that time stood still when Shane Long rifled past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for the all-important goal. It was in reality 12 seconds of play from perhaps the most rewarding substitutions in Martin O’Neill’s career.
Darren Randolph, David Meyler and Shane Long were the three men called into action from the dugout last night. The pre-match emotions must have varied for all three. Long was thought by man the ideal man to lead the line, while David Meyler could have vacated the defensive slot created by Glen Whelan's absence.
How many fans would have predicted that the Birmingham City shot-stopper would be the second in command if light of an injury to Shay Given? A penny for David Forde's thoughts.
The game appeared to be going to script. German possession and dogged Irish tackling. Only Given picking the ball out of the net was all that was absent from the pre-match predictions. A German attack unable to show the sharpness ruthlessly demonstrated on their previous visit to Dublin encouraged O'Neill's side to believe that there was a positive result in the making.
Then the management looked to the bench. Randolph was introduced just before the break when Given succumbed to injury. The two after the break had an almost immediate effect.
With 25 minutes remaining, Long was called into the fray, telling the raucous crowd post-match that his instructions were to tire the defence and look to “run in behind”. Meyler soon followed, Stephen Ward's lack of football this season catching up with him.
A minute later and all three substitutes combined to ensure another great chapter to add to Irish football results.
It began with the home side on the back foot. Walters slipped in the opposition box and the ball played out to Marco Reus saw the Borussia Dortmund play-maker surge past half-way line. John O’Shea, sensing the danger, quickly scampered over, availing of an inviting touch from the German, with the ball breaking around the centre circle.
Meyler, running backwards, claimed the ball, his second touch giving possession back to Randolph to launch the next attack.
His failure to launch it first time skipped a few heart-beats and gave Thomas Muller added incentive to chase the keeper down. The Bray native however appeared far more composed than his tally of three international caps might suggest.
A slight touch to assess the situation, easing the ball to his right and launching with the consummate ease of a pro golfer nonchalantly hitting a six iron down field.
The next segment will be replayed for days, weeks and months to come. And no one will complain.
With three defenders for company, the odds were not in the Tipperary man’s favour. Their high line however, pushing for an elusive goal, forced the trio to retreat. The bounce was crucial, the skid off the turf allowing Long to surge goalwards.
The first touch, at pace, was a joy to behold. Keeping the ball under control by prodding it forward with his left knee is no mean feat, every bit as impressive as what followed. It shouldn't be overlooked that Neuer's body position was ideal, leaving the Southampton striker with two choices to make in a split second; drill low at near post, or out of reach to Neuer’s right, a lower percentage shot in the circumstances.
Before we wondered which side, the ball was nestling in the net, the new Aviva becomes the old Lansdowne Road and the world champions are sent packing by three Irish substitutes and six incredible touches.