Monday 22 July 2019

'We hope we made people proud' - Seamus Coleman reflects on Ireland's Euro 2016 exit

Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman applauds supporters after the final whistle during the round of 16 match at the Stade de Lyon
Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman applauds supporters after the final whistle during the round of 16 match at the Stade de Lyon Newsdesk Newsdesk

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.

Robbie Brady, Stephen Ward and Jeff Hendrick are all at Burnley
Robbie Brady, Stephen Ward and Jeff Hendrick are all at Burnley
From the spot, Robbie Brady gives Ireland an early lead against France. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland supporters ahead of the clash with France in Lyon. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane considering the challenge ahead. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
A devoted member of the Green Army. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
The Ireland team to face France. REUTERS/Max Rossi
The France team to face Ireland REUTERS/Max Rossi
Shane Long is fouled by Paul Pogba for a penalty, which Robbie Brady converted. i. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Brady scores Ireland's first goal from the penalty spot REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Robbie Brady celebrates scoring the opening goal d (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Ireland are now 31st in the latest FIFA world rankings
Dimitri Payet of France and Seamus Coleman tussle for possession. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Adil Rami and James McClean go shoulder-to-shoulder. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Ireland supporters celebrate Robbie Brady's opener (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Jeff Hendrick takes a breather in the Lyon heat. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Jeff Hendrick is challenged by Paul Pogba. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
France's coach Didier Deschamps looking pensive. Getty Images
Roy Keane is considered a contender
Shane Long leaps above Olivier Giroud. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Hugo Lloris makes a save from Daryl Murphy. REUTERS/Max Rossi
France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring their equaliser. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
France's Antoine Griezmann as James McClean reacts. REUTERS
Antoine Griezmann celebrates with Andre-Pierre Gignac and Anthony Martial. Getty Images
Daryl Murphy out-jumps Patrice Evra . Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Martin O'Neill offers instruction. /Getty Images
Antoine Griezmann is challenged by Shane Duffy. Getty Images
Shane Duffy fouls Antoine Griezmann, which resulted in a red card. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Jeff Hendrick blocks an effort from Antoine Griezmann. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Kingsley Coman in action against Wes Hoolahan. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach Livepic
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo by Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

"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."

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