Last night I’m sure every house up and down the country feared the worst going into this must win game for Ireland against Wales in Cardiff.
The first half was as you would expect nervy and with Ireland barely able to string a pass together it looked as though the following 45 minutes would cause serious heartache. That all said as soon as Martin O’Neill’s men took to the pitch for the second half they looked somewhat a different side.
Up for each ball and pushing forward each time. Welsh manager Chris Colemen knew what he had to do and his countries rendition of their national anthem at the beginning made that even clearer just how important this game was to the fans.
As Ireland began to dominate possession they finally saw their chance and who other than the Derry hero James McClean to help his side as he blasted the ball into the net on the 57th minute after Jeff Hendrick pressuered Welsh skipper Ashley Williams into a mistake out on the touchline and then ran along the line before delivering a stunning cross that McClean arrowed to the net.
One up and with thirty minutes still to play? Anyone that said they didn’t feel sick after that goal would be lying. Each minute counted down felt like hours. Wales gave it a good go but Ireland were strong in their defence as soon as Wales began any attack.
It became clear because results elsewhere that the home team now had to win this match, as a draw they had set out for no longer mattered. Making a possible equaliser late on even tougher to take as ultimately it knocked both of us out.
As soon as the 90 minutes were up the forth official held up the board to say five minutes added, as aggressive as I felt to the referee at the time it was expected with the time wasting late on. Minute by minute you could feel the pressure of the country on each players shoulders.
McClean who had been our hero right up to this point gave away a silly foul right in the dying seconds, which gave Wales one last chance. The free kick was poor and crossed over every players heads. As Ireland took their time with the throw in the referee finally gave us all what we were looking for – the final whistle.
The scenes straight after were amazing as the Irish inside began the party and the players joined them in celebrating yet another sensational night in Irish football.
So the question now is simple we are into the playoffs but who else is left to beat to send us on our way to Russia? The playoff draw will take place next Tuesday (October 17th) at Fifa headquarters in Zurich. Right now we don’t know for certain the eight playoff teams until the final qualifiers are completed on Tuesday.
As it stands it looks this way; Seeded sides – Portugal/Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark. Unseeded teams; Sweden, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Greece. The first legs will take place over three days in November – Thursday 9th, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th – with the second legs on Sunday 12th, Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th.
So there you have it as usual Ireland have defied the odds and pulled a result out of the bag. Can we do it again? With the Irish anything is possible!