EURO 2016

Greatest Ireland memories: A goal that will live Long in the memory

EURO 2016By John Brennan
Shane Long fires Ireland into the lead against the World Champions
Shane Long fires Ireland into the lead against the World Champions

Our latest highlight from Irish football history is the goal and the game that opened the road to France.

We speak of course of Shane Long's goal last October that gave Ireland a win over world champions Germany and proved to be the key to unlocking Ireland's path out of an extremely tricky qualifying group.

When Ireland prepared to host the best team in the world on that fateful Thursday evening in October, things were looking grim in a group in which the World Cup holders and Poland looked a class apart.

With Ireland's last qualifier coming four days later in Warsaw, Ireland desperately needed something from this visit of Germany.

And that something had to be much better than the 6-1 thrashing dished out by the Germans on the previous occasion that Joachim Low's team had come to the Aviva Stadium.

That was at the fag-end of the Trap era, but this game would define Martin O'Neill's term in charge.

Ireland started well but cagily, giving the Germans little room to strut their stuff and keeping class acts like Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos quiet.

Gradually Germany began to control the contest but without getting the goal they needed.

In the 70th minute, the outlook of the fixture completely changed.

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who had replaced the injured Shay Given in the first half, punted a clearance forward and Long – himself only four minutes on the pitch – controlled it superbly to put it into his stride.

Using his pace to get in behind the German defence, Long hammered a thunderous right-foot shot beyond Manuel Neuer in the visitors' goal in a flash.

The Aviva rocked and the crowd got behind the team in a way they hadn't for years.

Many would describe it as the best day for the game in Ireland since the vital qualifier win over Holland in 2001.

But it wasn't over, not by a long way.

Germany had more than 20 minutes to get the goal they wanted for a point and they began to turn the screw on an Irish team that fell back defending its advantage.

The turning point came when Muller missed what was, in essence, a penalty kick from open play.

He was 12 yards out with just Randolph to beat.

But as the 51,000 people as the Aviva held their breath, the Bayern Munich man somehow dragged his shot wide.

Ireland held out and suddenly a path to France was clear. Even if we lost to Poland, as the Boys in Green would, a play-off place was assured.

And that ended in a 3-1 aggregate win over Bosnia a month later.

Yet none of that would have been possible without Long's magnificent effort.

IRELAND: Given: Christie, Keogh, O'Shea, Ward; Hendrick, McCarthy, Brady; Hoolahan; Walters, Murphy.

Subs: Randolph for Given (36mins), Long for Murphy (66mins), Meyler for Ward (69mins).