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Niall Quinn's World Cup 2002 diary: Germany - This is just about as good as it gets...

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Republic of Ireland players, management and staff salute the supporters after the 1-1 draw against Germany at the 2002 World Cup Finals in Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland players, management and staff salute the supporters after the 1-1 draw against Germany at the 2002 World Cup Finals in Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland players, management and staff salute the supporters after the 1-1 draw against Germany at the 2002 World Cup Finals in Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

JUST sitting in that dressing-room beneath the Kashima Stadium, a tingle running through the stone-work, I couldn't help but move the dial to rewind.

I’m the old codger in this story you see. Made my international debut against Iceland in '86. Came on a sub when we beat Brazil in '87. Played against England when we beat them at Euro ‘88.

Was part of that famous expedition through Italia '90. Missed US ‘94 through injury, Then came back for more. But, sitting there, bedlam raging all around, my mind seemed to crowd with all the big nights that we had. Sixteen years on.the international trail, I'm so lucky to be a part of this.

I was one of the first out of the dressing room and behind emotions were running free.

Tears in some corners, singing in others, just a fantastic vibe.

I think what's making this special for everybody here are our fans. It's absolutely incredible that we can be so far away from home, and still see that great wall of green, hear that thunder.

For me, this is bigger and better than Italia '90. Maybe we had a few more people at some of the games in America. But the commitment these people have shown, the sheer heart they've displayed to come and support us in Japan just beggars description.

So for us to give them a lift in return with Robbie's late, late goal is a wonderful feeling. Right up there with all the things that happened in the roller coaster years under Big Jack.

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5 June 2002; Republic of Ireland fans celebrates Robbie Keane's goal against Germany. FIFA World Cup Finals, Group E, Republic of Ireland v Germany, Ibaraki Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

5 June 2002; Republic of Ireland fans celebrates Robbie Keane's goal against Germany. FIFA World Cup Finals, Group E, Republic of Ireland v Germany, Ibaraki Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

5 June 2002; Republic of Ireland fans celebrates Robbie Keane's goal against Germany. FIFA World Cup Finals, Group E, Republic of Ireland v Germany, Ibaraki Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

At one point last night, I thought we'd be carrying Mick Byrne out on a stretcher if he didn't calm down. And he's a man who has seen it all. In a sense you wouldn't expect it from him. But something truly special is unfolding here.

You can see that vividly in the eyes of the young lads. They're almost starstruck with the World Cup experience.

I think it's beyond question that we deserved the draw. Oliver Khan was by far the busier goalkeeper. In fact he showed just how good he is, world class in my opinion. And he needed to be to make some of those saves, particularly the one from Damien Duff.

It feels good to think that we finished strong for the second game running. That we played a class side like Germany and but for the saves of Khan would have won. So in terms of raw emotion, this must be as good as it gets.

With the pressure that's been on and the huge crowd that's been backing us. I remember thinking beforehand: 'My God, we're going to have to answer some questions tonight'. This was always destined to be a night where we would have to go to the floor of what's within this team.

Germany are a class outfit, as they proved against Saudi Arabia. So to see them struggling to see them hacking balls out of defense and argue with one another, that was something remarkable.

Disappointment was etched on every German face at the final whistle. They knew we had out-fought them.

At half time Mick said the same thing to me he had said last February. "Might need you Quinny for 15 or 20 minutes". That's the way he's always put it, just said he wanted me ready. There might be only a flick on that might change things, anything at all, but he wanted me ready.

That might sound like scraps to be existing on for the last few months. But I like to think that I've trained as well as I could, got myself right. I might not have any further part to play in this competition but I enjoyed the little bit I did.

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Niall Quinn of Ireland and Thomas Linke of Germany battle for the ball in the Group E match during the World Cupat the Ibaraki-Prefectural Kashima Soccer Stadium. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Niall Quinn of Ireland and Thomas Linke of Germany battle for the ball in the Group E match during the World Cupat the Ibaraki-Prefectural Kashima Soccer Stadium. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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Niall Quinn of Ireland and Thomas Linke of Germany battle for the ball in the Group E match during the World Cupat the Ibaraki-Prefectural Kashima Soccer Stadium. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Deep down I kind of knew that the game had slipped beyond the 90 minutes. When they brought Jeremies on for Schneider, it was obvious the Germans were just killing time.

Mick told me going on to make sure that Damien and Robbie stay right up the field, we had a right good go to the finish. He didn't want them dropping deep. If the ball did come to me he wanted bodies around, and then just before the goal Robbie almost got in.

God, what a wonderful night for him. He's a brilliant player, reads things incredibly well. It was pure instinct the way Robbie read my header.

All I've ever said to him is that I try and knock the ball inside in that situation. So as the cross came in, I think from Steve Finnan, and I got my head to it, Robbie just latched on to it intuitively. He's an absolute gem. I mean we're all mad about him in the dressing room.

But after this, the kid is a real star. To be so alert in the 92nd minute of a strength-sapping game against Germany was amazing. Mentally and physically, he had every right to be shattered. But he's created a bit of history here and I'm delighted for him.

To be fair, everyone was a hero of sorts, Duffer was fabulous. just showed the world what he's made of.

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Republic of Ireland captain Steve Staunton celebrates after the draw with Germany at the 2002 World Cup Finals in Ibaraki Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland captain Steve Staunton celebrates after the draw with Germany at the 2002 World Cup Finals in Ibaraki Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland captain Steve Staunton celebrates after the draw with Germany at the 2002 World Cup Finals in Ibaraki Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

As the old stager looking on, I'm chuffed to bits for all of them, but I'm made up for Stan especially.

We made a presentation to him before the game at the team hotel on winning his 100th cup. Got Steven Reid, the youngest guy in the squad to make it.

Steven made a little speech and it was wonderful. Just kind of epitomised the spirit within the squad. A lovely little oration for Stan on his 100 cap from the newest in the squad.

Just another precious moment on the way. And who's to say there aren't more to follow.

Online Editors