EURO 2016

Greatest Ireland memories: The night Thierry Henry broke Irish hearts

EURO 2016By John Brennan
William Gallas cannot miss after Henry's handball led to an assist
William Gallas cannot miss after Henry's handball led to an assist

IT'S THE match that will forever be remembered for THAT handball by Thierry Henry but there is so much else to remember from that infamous night in the Stade de France on November 18, 2009.

First off, Ireland were not definitely going to South Africa when Henry intervened. The match would have ended with a penalty shoot-out, not with Ireland qualifying for the World Cup.

Secondly, the Boys in Green played better football that night than in any other game in the Giovanni Trapattoni era.

That night our players proved to the veter­an Italian that they could actually play the game – as distinct from sitting in their own half and protecting their goal, come what may.

With Ireland trailing to a fortunate Nicolas Anelka goal from the first leg in Croke Park four days previously, Ireland had no choice but to go for broke.

And so the usual caution of Trap's tight tactical scheme was ditched. Our full-backs went forward and Ireland took the game to the French, proving them­selves a far better team over the 120 minutes.

The truth is that Ireland should never have been forced into extra-time for Henry to handle the ball and set up William Gallas to score.

But with France attacking in the sec­ond-half and Ireland able to strike on the break, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff could not convert glorious chances for a second away goal that would have put the tie beyond the hosts.

The duo had created and scored Ireland's 34th-minute goal that dragged the team right back into the tie.

As the pair had done so often, it was a Duff foray down the left that opened the French defence and the winger found Keane in the yard of space that was all he needed to score.

Keane celebrates with Kevin Kilbane after putting the Boys in Green 1-0 up

But those two spurned second-half chances meant Ireland were vulnerable to a desperate French side.

So it proved as the first-half of extra-time died away and Paul McShane let a deep cross drift over his head. Henry controlled the ball not once, but twice, with his hand, before playing it across to Gallas to score.

Ireland's players protested furiously to Swedish referee Martin Hansson and his assistants but to no avail. They simply could not lift them­selves in the second period of extra-time and a valiant effort to get to South Africa had died.

As, not surprisingly, did Hansson's career. Hansson and his linesmen were selected for duty at the World Cup but pointedly were not given a match as a crew there.

In the summer of 2011, UEFA quietly dropped him from their international referees list and two years later Hansson quit referee­ing Swedish League matches too.

IRELAND: Shay Given; John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St. Ledger, Kevin Kilbane; Liam Lawrence, Keith An­drews, Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff; Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle.

Subs: Darron Gibson for Whelan (63 mins), Paul McShane for O'Shea (66mins), Aiden McGeady for Lawrence (106mins).