Dublin: Jon Walters was the toast of Lansdowne Road as his brace against Bosnia-Herzegovina in a 2-0 victory fired Ireland to next summer’s European Championship Finals in France.
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Brady (left), Richard Keogh (centre) and John O'Shea react after their win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Pic/AFP
The Stoke City striker missed Friday’s play-off first leg through suspension but he more than made up for that with a goal in each half that saw Martin O’Neill’s men progress 3-1 on aggregate.
“There was a whole team of heroes out there — we got there in the end. It is the best moment of my career in any shirt — to qualify for the European Championship finals is unbelievable,” the hero of the night told Sky Sports.
Bosnia manager Mehmed Bazdarevic will be bitterly disappointed with his side’s poor showing, but for Ireland it was the most complete performance of a roller coaster campaign, on the most crucial night.
The hosts were simply better in every department, bullying the visitors in the first half and taking their chances when they arrived. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” said O’Neill. “I hold the players in the highest esteem. They don’t have everything, but courage and determination are things they have in abundance.”
With an away goal advantage, Ireland could have set out to merely defend, but O’Neill sent out a team to attack with Walters starting while retaining the set piece skills of Robbie Brady — who scored in Zenica — at left back.
Ireland came into the game on the back of eight home games without defeat, with last month’s victory over Germany the standout result.