Thursday 26 April 2018

'My greatest moment' - Ireland hero James McClean hails his golden goal as Coleman salutes rival O'Neill

James McClean of Republic of Ireland celebrates scoring his sides first goal during World Cup Qualifying - European Group D match between Wales against Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium Cardiff City Football Club on 09 Oct 2017 (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
James McClean of Republic of Ireland celebrates scoring his sides first goal during World Cup Qualifying - European Group D match between Wales against Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium Cardiff City Football Club on 09 Oct 2017 (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Ireland match-winner James McClean described his winning goal in Wales as the best moment of his career, as he sounded the rallying cry ahead of next month’s play-offs.

A potentially daunting match against Italy or Portugal may now lie in wait for Martin O’Neill’s Ireland heroes, with McClean sprinkling a note of caution after his magic moment in Cardiff.

“This will mean nothing if we don’t go on and win the play-off,” declared the Ireland talisman. “We will take whoever we get and have a real go and after this, we feel we can beat anyone.

“It was my best goal for Ireland by far. It was a great dummy from Harry (Arter). Whether or not he knew I was behind him only he will know, but it was a great moment. There is no better feeling. It’s class.

“A lot of people wrote us off and didn’t give us a chance tonight, but we showed our quality when we needed to and we will enjoy this now.”

Ireland midfielder Jeff Hendrick echoed McClean’s sentiments, with the Burnley man overwhelmed by the moment at the final whistle.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Whenever we pressed them, we felt we could get something out of them and it was a brilliant strike from James.

“When it comes down to one game, the spirit in this group means we can do anything. This is special, but we have to keep making special nights like this.”

Magnanimous Wales manager Chris Coleman gave Ireland credit after their battling win, as he suggested O’Neill’s tactics worked to perfection to end his side’s long unbeaten run on home soil.

“Good luck to Martin O’Neill and Ireland, they got it spot on tonight,” stated Coleman. “I hope they now go on and get to the World Cup.

“Ireland’s tactics worked for them. They hit us on the counter attack, a sucker punch, got a goal and we couldn’t find a response. That is our first defeat at home in four years and it was tough to take, but we have taken it to the wire in this group and have just come up short.

“They basically had ten men behind the ball for most of the game and once they scored, it was always going to be hard for us to break them down. Good luck to them. They deserve it.”

Coleman refused to be drawn over his future as Wales manager, as he confirmed he would sit down with Welsh FA chiefs to consider his future in the next few days.

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