Greatest Ireland memories: McAteer's goal rocks Landsdowne Road as Ireland clinch World Cup qualification

SoccerBy John Brennan
Jason McAteer volleys in the winner to take the Boys in Green to Japan/South Korea
Jason McAteer volleys in the winner to take the Boys in Green to Japan/South Korea

FOR the latest in our 16 special Irish football memories leading up to Euro 2016, we go back 15 years to the day that, until Shane Long's goal against Germany five months ago, was the last great Irish football occasion.

We speak of course of September 1, 2001 and the day Holland came to town for a crucial World Cup qualifier.

They were sent home beaten – thanks to an inspirational display from Roy Keane and Jason McAteer's fine goal that provided a wonderful Saturday afternoon of memories at the old Lansdowne Road.

It was not Louis van Gaal's finest hour, for the current Manchester United manager was then the Dutch boss.

As his team chased an equaliser to McAteer's goal, Van Gaal's substitutions meant he had five centre-forwards on the pitch – but nobody to give any of them a decent pass.

Instead Holland just whacked long balls in the direction of their strikers and the Irish centre-backs, Richard Dunne and Steve Staunton, whacked them back out.

Van Gaal should have sensed it would be a tough day when the tone for the game was set by a thumping Keane tackle on Marc Overmars just after the match kicked off.

It was 'Welcome to Dublin' writ large and the Dutch didn't like it.

They got involved in a series of incidents in the opening period that distracted them from the task of winning the game.

Which was what they had to do, for a draw was no use to the Dutch.

Holland got a break early in the second half when referee Helmut Krug dismissed Gary Kelly, giving the Leeds defender a second yellow card after a late tackle too many.

It should have been the signal for the visitors to crack on and win, and take pole position for a place at Japan/Korea 2002.

Instead it was Ireland who took the lead in the 68th minute.

Keane worked the ball down the left and, even though he was fouled in the process, got the ball across to substitute Steve Finnan.

He found McAteer in an ocean of space down the Irish left to convert the cross, showing excellent technique to dispatch the half-volley beyond Edwin van der Sar.

Lansdowne Road erupted before the team embarked on a very nervy 20 minutes.

The loudest alarm sounded when Irish keeper Shay Given appeared to make contact in the area with Ruud van Nistelrooy as the pair chased a loose ball.

But Krug waved play on and the more desperate the Dutch became, the closer Ireland edged to the win.

The World Cup journey was completed in the unlikely surroundings of Tehran as Ireland beat Iran 2-1 on aggregate in a November play-off to reach a third World Cup in their history.

IRELAND: Given; Kelly, Dunne, Staunton, Harte; McAteer, Roy Keane, Holland, Kilbane; Robbie Keane, Duff.

Subs: Finnan for Kilbane (60mins), Quinn for Duff (87mins), O'Brien for McAteer (90mins).