Roy Keane’s impassioned plea appeared to work it’s magic in stoking the fires in his player’s bellies. A performance full of desire and unwavering commitment saw Ireland set up a date against the heavily favoured home nation of France.
In a tense final 10 minutes, Martin O’Neills side could have been forgiven for thinking they had blown their chances when Wes Hoolahan went clean through only to tamely pass the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms. However he made up for it a few minutes later by supplying a sublime cross onto the head of Robbie Brady who directed the ball into the back of the Italian goal.
Cue wild celebrations from the Irish supporters, who may I add seem to have lifted the whole spirit in France, particularly in light of the behavior shown from some of the other nations fans. They have gone from serenading a French woman to singing lullabies to a baby on a crowded train. As one bar owner in Paris put it , “Paris has been Morose since last year’s attacks. It does us good to see such happy people”.
What makes their performance even more impressive, was the fact that they were able pick themselves up from the 3-0 drubbing they suffered at the hands of Belgium. Many teams would have wilted under the pressure, particularly coming up against a team like Italy who had already demonstrated their tournament credentials by winning their two opening fixtures without conceding a goal.
The fact that hard man Keane was almost reduced to tears shows just how big a result this was for Ireland. However he did get his act together when he celebrated by strangling the goalscoring hero Robbie Brady.
On paper, the fixture against France looks like a mismatch, particularly when they can showcase talents like Pogba, Griezmann, Payet, Martial and Coman, to name but a few. However you won’t see a team perform with more passion than the Irish. And as the old saying goes, if they get a bit of ‘the luck of the Irish’ then who knows what could happen.
It’s onwards and upwards now for Ireland. Let just hope that last night’s heroics hasn’t taken too much out of the team and that they can produce a similar level performance against France at the stade des lumières in Lyon next Sunday.
About the author – Kevin Kirwan
Kevin has been playing Soccer Manager Worlds for 10 years and has an keen interest in the Premier League. He supports Manchester United and hopes that Mourinho can bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.