Last Thursday night, Irish fans travelled in their thousands to the Aviva Stadium in a sleepy part of Dublin, to see the Republic of Ireland take on World Champions Germany in their last home game of the group stage of qualification for the European Championships 2016, to be held in France. Going into the game Martin O’Neill and his team sat third in the group with a clear four points between themselves and Scotland who sat fourth. The players and fans knew that a point would take them automatically into the play offs and surely at the start of the campaign this is what everyone would have taken. The challenge for the night was to keep the Germans at bay and not let the luxury of a four point gap over the Scots disappear. This task was going to be huge and it needed everyone to be on form and fully focussed for this to happen. This German team are so organised, they even brought a team bus all the way across from Germany. It is the little things like this, that show how organised the Germans are on and off the pitch. So when the squad arrived in Dublin they stepped onto familiar surroundings and the guys in the German FA who organise all the arrangements made sure they gave their team every possible advantage they could.
As the teams arrived out onto the pitch to warm up you just had to look around at both sets of players to realise the task ahead for the Irish team. The German team had quality throughout,from front to back and are household names. What was to unfold over ninety minutes will go down in Irish footballing history as one of the boys in green greatest ever performances. The Irish players worked their socks off in a gutsy performance to try and secure the point they needed. Without a doubt, the pin point accuracy of the German passing was certainly world class. The Irish team for long periods of the game had to chase, hassle and move all over the place to try and keep things tight. It was a monumental effort by everyone involved and the long ball out from back to front for Jon Walters to chase was working a treat, it was causing no end of frustration for the Germans who surely would grind down a defence that would get tired from all the chasing around as the game went on. What the Germans had not taken into account though was the fact that an Irish crowd on form could become a twelfth man.On seventy minutes when Shane Long scored the opening goal the Aviva stadium erupted into sheer joy. It was the first time since the rebuilding of the old Lansdowne Road that the atmosphere had reached such a crescendo. From the moment the ball flew past German keeper Neuer, you just knew the fans behind the team would roar on the lads to the ninetieth minute and a famous,famous victory. Mind you since the game I have heard about some people who were looking at the final moments of the game at home and having to go behind their settee so as to settle the nerves. On the final whistle when the Spanish referee blew up for full time, it started the biggest party Dublin has seen for years. The fans stayed in the ground for at least twenty minutes after both sides had left the field and sang their heads off,to the point were the Aviva Stadium was rocking. As we all know, nobody does a song better than the Irish. In fact inside the Irish teams dressing room,Martin O’ Neill could not have missed the noise coming from outside as the celebration party got under way.
Thursday night meant a lot of things to a lot of people and memories were made. The winning of the game threw qualification wide open. Poland had gone to Scotland and picked up a point with a late late goal. The focus now turns to Poland on Sunday night for O’Neill and if the Irish take the momentum from the Germany game into that one, they could qualify automatically with a victory or a high scoring draw. Tough as it may seem,maybe just maybe the boys can buzz off the rocking of the Aviva and come home as heroes on their return. It is a big ask,but who knows, we beat the Germans, didn’t we.