Euro 2016 hosts France bid au revoir to the boys in green
A fortnight of excitement ended in Lyon on Sunday afternoon, as the Republic of Ireland exited Euro 2016 at the hands of hosts France.
But despite the 2-1 defeat, and disappointing exit after taking the lead through a Robbie Brady penalty after 70 seconds, the team, the fans and the nation were not downtrodden.
The Irish fans have won the hearts of the French media and public, as online videos of their celebrations – win, lose or draw – swept social media sites across the continent.
Manager Martin O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane were praised for their organisation of the team, as the Derryman vowed to stay on after the tournament. On Monday he told press that he had verbally agreed a new deal with the FAI and chief executive John Delaney.
“I think my contract officially ended about a minute and a half after the result, so that was when we were out,” he said. “I don’t see that being an issue now. I think I’ve agreed with John Delaney and I’d be happy to continue on if he’s still feeling that way.
“I’d like to (have Roy Keane on board too) yes. I think he’ll decide for himself but yes, absolutely. He’s been great for the team and I think he’s been great for everyone. I’ll sit down with him and if he feels he wants to stay with us that would be great.”
Martin O'Neill: The players have become better players at international level. I think we have proved that. #COYBIG
— FAIreland (@FAIreland) June 27, 2016
The tournament saw the star rise of many players who O’Neill said adapted and improved at international level. Robbie Brady became the nation’s hero after his strike that secured a 1-0 victory over the Italians last week to book his side’s spot in the knockout stages against France.
Premier league champions Leicester are rumoured to be looking to make a £7 million swoop for the Norwich player as they look to strengthen their attacking line-up on their quest to retain the title. After Ireland bowed out he said that the tournament had been one of his most unforgettable experiences ever.
He made front pages after his post-match celebrations with his brother and partner. “It’s not just the goals,” the ex-Manchester United and Hull City player told reporters in Lyon.
“There’s different moments. Even at the end there, standing in front of the fans, is something you’ll never forget.
“So, thanks to them for giving us that moment, because I’ll never forget it.”
Seamus Coleman echoed his sentiments as he praised the supporters. The bond between the fans and the players is something special,” he said. “Our fans are immense and we’re so proud of them, as I’m sure they are of us. It means a lot to us. Not just who were at today’s game, but the fans who are at the Sweden game, the Belgium game and the Italy game, they’ve all played a big part — and all the fans sitting in their houses back home watching it.
“There is that bond and it would have been nice if we could have just gone one further.”
Goalkeeper Darren Randolph played fantastically over Ireland’s four matches, and Derby County’s Jeff Hendrick impressed and looked like the team’s most dangerous attacking threat from midfield on many occasions, so it is no surprise that a number of top-flight teams are rumoured to be interested in him too.
Waterford defender John O’Shea was also an integral part of Ireland’s squad, and at the age of 35 he has delayed making any decision about his international future. “I’m not going to get involved in that now,” said O’Shea when asked after the game.
“I’m going to enjoy tonight with a special group of players and a special backroom staff and coaching staff. We’ll reflect on some positive things, and also things we know we can improve on going forward. Let’s wait and see.”
He also said the tournament had gotten rid of the demons of Ireland’s Euro 2016 campaign where they failed to make it out of the group stages after three losses from three.
“There’s no comparison,” he commented. “That’s why it was a special moment at the end of the France game when we were in the corner just showing our appreciation to the fans.
“That’s something we were fully involved with this time around. “The fans had the team, the players and the coaching staff to be proud of. That was something that was hugely important to us.”
O’Neill also spoke about the likelihood that a lot of familiar faces could soon be leaving his international dressing room. That decision will be up to the players but the likes of Robbie Keane, Shay Given, John O’Shea and I’d include Glenn Whelan in that too, have been really terrific around the team,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have been without them in that sense, it’s only when you are in the tournament that you realise how influential those players can be.”