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Proud Sean stands tall'

THE beginning of Sean St Ledger's career in international football saw the defender sit on the bench and watch in bemusement as a ramshackle Ireland side went down 5-2 away to Cyprus.

No wonder, then, that St Ledger was beaming with pride after last night's clinical 4-0 dismissal of a poor Estonia side. If that defeat in Cyprus was a sign of all that was wrong with the Irish team under Steve Staunton, then the win in Tallinn was on another planet: away win, four goals scored, none conceded and no yellow or red cards.

"That was one of the proudest moments of my career to date, without a doubt. Even to play in a play-off game for my country is a huge honour so to come away with a 4-0 win was a very proud moment for me," St Ledger told the Herald.


"Everything about the night was spot-on. A win, four goals, a clean sheet, no bookings, no suspensions. It's hard to believe at the moment. I don't think anyone in the changing room after the game could believe the result.

"We felt we could win but just didn't think we'd win so comprehensively.

"I don't think anyone expected the scoreline that we got in the end. But we deserved that for all the hard work we have put in over the years and it's a great credit to the manager and his staff for all the work that they've done.

"I'm just pleased for the fans who have supported us, home and away. This was for them as they have been brilliant and I think they had had a good night in Tallinn last night," said St Ledger, currently going through a rough patch at club level where he faces an uncertain future at Leicester City, but simultaneously a purple patch at international level.

The first of Ireland's four goals came in the 12th minute and St Ledger says that the timing of Keith Andrews' header was vital.

"The early goal was key," said St Ledger, who won his 23rd cap last night.

"Coming away from home, if you can silence the crowd early on you have a great chance.

"When we walked out on the pitch the atmosphere was quite intimidating so it was great to get the early goal -- it settled our nerves a bit.

"We didn't play as well as we could have after that but the sending-off went our way.

"Yet I think the referee made the right decisions last night. Even trying to look on as a neutral, I think the ref did well and had a good game."

Just as the Swedish whistler Martin Hansson is reviled in Ireland for his part in the France play-off two years ago, so now the Hungarian official Viktor Kassai should be hailed for his handling of the game as the six Irish players involved last night, who were already on one booking in the campaign, came away with no more cards.

"It was in the back of my mind about getting booked last night. I was on a yellow card already in the qualifying and if I was booked last night I'd have missed the home game on Tuesday and I would hate to miss that one. But you have to play the way you play, you can't hold back," says St Ledger.

"There was a moment of panic for me, one of their players ran down the line, I made a bit of a lunge at him, I suppose you could say, and I thought I might get a booking but I got away with it."


And now we move on to Tuesday and the job of defending that 4-0 lead.

"It's half-time in the tie, we have half the job done. Hopefully we can finish off the job on Tuesday," St Ledger told the Herald.

"It's a very difficult result for Estonia. They will feel that they have nothing to lose, they'll come to Dublin with all guns blazing and we know we'll have to be professional and solid.

"We have never won qualification in Dublin before so hopefully we can finish the job on Tuesday on our home turf. We want to win and give everyone something to shout about."