Ireland coach hails ‘special night’

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said the 1-0 win over Italy that took his team through to the last 16 of the European Championship was one of the best nights of his long career.

“I’ve had some great nights but this was very special tonight,” a beaming O’Neill said after Robbie Brady’s late goal in Lille took Ireland through to a dream tie against host nation France as one of the best third-placed sides.

“We had an enormous support and they kept us going throughout the game. I think the players and fans fed off each other.”

Ireland’s winner came just after Wes Hoolahan had squandered a great chance to score and with Italy threatening at the other end.

“It was great win and we deserved to win the game. I thought the chance had gone when the goalkeeper saved from Wes. I didn’t want it to be one of those nights where it was ‘if only’.”

O’Neill added that he felt Ireland should have had a penalty in the first half after Daryl Murphy and James McClean both had claims waved away by the Romanian referee.

“It looked as if we should have had a penalty. It was pretty clear cut, but it doesn’t matter now. It was phenomenal stuff.

© AFP

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