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08th Oct 2015

James McCarthy put in a performance Roy Keane would have been proud of and four other talking points from Ireland’s win

What a night

Robert Redmond

Absolutely incredible.

Stuttgart in ’88, Genoa in ’90, the Giants Stadium in ’94, Thursday night in Dublin will rank among those special occasions for the Republic of Ireland.

Not since September 2001 has Ireland beaten a team of such pedigree, and while that Netherlands were a good side, they weren’t the world champions, and Ireland could call on players such as Roy Keane, Damien Duff and a young Robbie Keane back then.

It would be difficult to imagine, without any disrespect intended, that a player such Stephen Ward would have even made that Ireland squad. He started tonight, despite not starting a league game this season.

A team featuring three Derby County players, West Ham’s back-up goalkeeper and an Ipswich Town striker just beat the world champions. If that doesn’t make the Irish public warm to this Irish team, nothing will.

Here’s five talking points from an amazing night for the Irish.

James McCarthy has come of age

The Everton midfielder seems to have split opinion recently, with many Irish fans seemingly looking for more from McCarthy. Eamon Dunphy in particular has been a vocal critic of the Glaswegian, and called for Stephen Quinn’s inclusion at his expense.

It’s safe to say McCarthy answered his critics against the Germans. The Everton midfielder was immense, covering every blade of grass, pressing Germany’s midfield, tackling, covering for his team-mates and putting in the kind of performance Roy Keane would’ve been proud of.UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 8/10/2015 Republic of Ireland vs Germany Ireland's James McCarthy and Mario Gotze of Germany Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Robbie Keane was full of praise for McCarthy following the game, saying: “He typified the performance.”

“The way he was harrassing people, stopping them from playing. Of course they were going to play at times but he was in good, important positions, he was very, very important to the team.”

The 24-year-old put in the performance we’d all hoped for from him, but some had started to doubt would ever happen. McCarthy has definitely come of age in an Ireland jersey.

Shay Given is no loss

The Donegal native twisted his knee, and will likely miss Sunday’s game with Poland, however it won’t be much of a loss to Ireland.

Given’s kicking was abject, barely clearing the half-way line and struggling to pick out a teammate on numerous occasions. The 39-year-old was also particularly slow getting across the line for a first-half German chance.

Given turned down the opportunity to play first-team football by joining Stoke City in the summer and it’s starting to show.

Darran Randolph impressed when he came on, made an decent save and set up Shane Long with with some Packie Bonner-esque kicking.

Germany paid for sleepwalking

A sharp pass was cut back across Ireland’s penalty area late in the game, the Irish defence seemed to get sucked towards the goal. Thomas Muller found space, as he always does, on the edge of the box. The Bayern Munich forward was on his own, with a free shot a goal but somehow he missed; at that point Irish fans could start to believe it wasn’t going to be Germany’s night.

After a bright opening spell, Germany appeared to sink into a lull, almost sleepwalking their way through the game. As though they would win this game eventually, that the inevitable chance would come and Ireland would be put out of their misery and they could confirm qualification for next summer’s European Championships.

Thomas Muller watches this shot go just wide of the target 8/10/2015However, Germany’s normally fluid frontline floundered, the final pass never really coming off and the usually lethal Muller had a rare off-night. The Bayern Munich forward drifted across Ireland’s defence, looking to find that pocket of space he thrives on, but when the chance came he missed.

Ireland still had to do their part though, and capitalise on their opponents’ lacklustre display.

Martin O’Neill rediscovers his magic touch

A couple of months ago O’Neill appeared to be a busted flush, yesterday’s man tactically and devoid of his trademark energetic touchline demeanour. Tonight he beat the world champions. No wonder the Ireland manager appeared somewhat drained in the post-match press conference.

O’Neill kicked every ball, and looked as though he expended as much energy as his exhausted players.

This was a game reminiscent of the Derryman’s great nights with Celtic, and he has undoubtedly put his stamp on the team.Martin OÕNeill celebrates at the final whistle 8/10/2015The midfield diamond worked again, despite the absence of Glenn Whelan and the presence of Robbie Brady, a left sided midfielder, turned full back, playing more centrally. O’Neill’s persistence with Wes Hoolahan has also paid off.

The Dubliner gave the ball away a few times, but he was brilliant and at the centre of all of Ireland’s positive play. He also worked tirelessly when Ireland lost possession. Sometimes sprinting back half the length of the pitch to get back into position.

For O’Neill’s final trick, he sprang Shane Long from the bench, a player he overlooked for a starting spot and appears to doubt, but the Tipperary native smashed the ball home past the best goalkeeper in the world.

When O’Neill was a player, his manager Brian Clough would rarely compliment him, but could still get the best from the then Nottingham Forest winger.

O’Neill’s tough love stance with Long certainly reaped dividends tonight.

Ireland have beat the world champions, but could still miss out

Let that sink in for a second.

Ireland have just beaten Germany, but could still miss out on a place in France next summer – if the team loses the play-off tie secured tonight. Robert Lewandowski’s late goal ended Scotland’s hopes, but retained their hold on the second, automatic qualification place.

Here’s how the table currently stands:

group d

If Sunday’s game in Warsaw ends goalless, or a 1-1 draw, then Poland will take the second spot behind Germany, who will undoubtedly take their frustration out on Georgia.

However, a win, or a high scoring draw (i.e. 2-2 or higher) gives Ireland second place and automatic qualification – due to a greater number of away goals scored in the fixtures against Poland.

The play-off picture is a lot more complicated, but it’ll become clearer over the next few days.

For now, let’s just enjoy this incredible win over the world champions.

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