GIOVANNI Trapattoni showered praise on the efficiency and dedication of the understrength Irish side that scored an unlikely victory over Italy last night.
The Irish manager believes that the penny has finally dropped with the group who carried out his instructions to weather a storm and come away with a two-goal victory thanks to goals from Keith Andrews and substitute Simon Cox.
Trapattoni reserved special praise for Darren O'Dea and Stephen Hunt, who played through the pain barrier. He made a pointed reference to stay-away players who could learn from the starring duo's commitment to the cause.
"After Macedonia, the doctor told me we were in danger of having to send them home," said Trapattoni. "But they understood the need to be here, the need to play, that sometimes you have to suffer.
"They showed the heart that a lot of Irish players have. I wish that those who didn't necessarily show that heart would take example from those players.
"I'm not referring to the likes of Duff, O'Shea and Kilbane -- I'm referring to those who could have been here if they had wanted to."
Trapattoni said it was a victory for attitude and mentality, acknowledging that Italy were better in possession, but that it wasn't enough to win.
"The guys have understood the mentality we need in order to achieve a goal, a result," he stressed.
"It's with this attitude. We have seen Italy with good possession and good passing. But there's another side to the game, which is how the team reacts when they have the ball and when they don't have the ball."
His opposite number, Cesare Prandelli, paid tribute to his old friend, saying: "If we are to lose, it's better to lose to Trapattoni."
Meanwhile, first-half goalscorer Andrews hailed the Irish team spirit. "All the crap that's been going on about players not coming hasn't been a big deal to us. We've just gotten on with it," he said.
"New players have come into the squad and shone and we've a great platform going forward. We're massively confident going into September's games. We've had four clean sheets in the past fortnight, and the team spirit is phenomenal."
And rising star Seamus Coleman tweeted his delight. "Never thought I'd be so lucky to play against teams like Italy. It's been a long, hard but enjoyable season and what a way to finish it off."