THE MORNING AFTER the night before, Seamus Coleman was still starry-eyed as he headed for home again yesterday.
After the toil of a two-legged play-off with Bosnia and Herzegovina that has secured the Republic of Ireland’s place at Euro 2016, it’s back to brass tacks for the Boys in Green.
Coleman returned to England yesterday and turned his mind to Everton’s game against Aston Villa on Saturday – but not before reflecting on the events of Monday night.
Two goals by Jonathan Walters secured a 2-0 win that will live long in the memory – especially in the mind of Coleman, for whom it was the best moment of his career.
“Yes I think it was,” mused the Killybegs man in the lobby of the Castleknock Hotel, the Irish team base.
“I can’t think of anything better. Playing for your country is a special feeling but to qualify for a tournament is even better.
“It’s still a bit surreal. I don’t know when it will sink in.
“When Jonny’s second goal went in, I was nearly close to tears. It was one of those moments, it was something I wanted all my life.
“Even talking about it now, I’m getting butterflies.”
Three years ago, Coleman was left at home when Giovanni Trapattoni selected his squad for Euro 2012, but the former Sligo Rovers man didn’t take long to make an impact on the next qualifying campaign, when he established himself as Ireland’s first-choice right-back.
The fearless Coleman – ‘pure Donegal’ as Eamon Dunphy described him on Friday night after the 1-1 draw with Bosnia in Zenica – will now be one of those on the frontline in France next summer.
“It’s hard to put into words, it’s such an amazing moment,” said Coleman.
“In 2012, I had no real complaints about not going to the European Championships so, please God, I’ll be in the 23 this time.
“Being a fan and growing up watching Ireland, everyone knows how much the country gets behind the team, so to be a part of that build up is something else.”
It hasn’t been a straightforward campaign for Ireland. A 1-0 defeat by Scotland in Glasgow, a 1-1 draw with the Scots in Dublin could have derailed the train.
Ireland displayed a never-say-die attitude that is in keeping with the traits and beliefs of Martin O’Neill, their manager, throughout their Group D endeavours and those late equalisers by John O’Shea – 94th minute away against Germany in Gelsenkirchen – and Shane Long – 91st minute against Poland in Dublin – have proven oh so vital; not to mention Long’s heroics in the 1-0 win over Germany at Aviva Stadium last month.
“It’s been great, we’ve shown tremendous spirit throughout,” Coleman said.
“There have been times where we’ve had some dark days. When we got beaten away in Scotland, it was tough to take and then when we drew with Scotland at home, you’re thinking you don’t know which way this is going to go. After the Scotland game at home I was bit low for a while.
“But we kept believing. I thought Scotland would struggle away to Georgia because we found it tough there and, thankfully, it swung back in our favour.
“The lads were brilliant against Germany, but the spirit from day one has been amazing – and that’s down to the management. The boss has been brilliant with me.”
In June 2012, he sat on a stool in Fawlty’s Bar in Killybegs, in a jersey he’d worn whilst playing for Ireland and drinking a Lucozade, to watch Ireland’s ill-fated European Championship campaign.
Next year will be different: He’ll be the man the natives will be watching this time.Tags: