French players' focus of post-match celebrations not lost on RTÉ panel
"It says it all, really."
Nathan Collins was still trying to get his head around how France goalkeeper Mike Maignan was able to tip his bullet header onto the crossbar, long after the final whistle sounded at Aviva Stadium.
Maignan was walking by several Irish players after Arthur Dias blew for full-time, confirming France as 1-0 winners. Collins stopped him and asked, "How? Just how?"
By the time the Wolves and Ireland defender arrived at the mixed zone for interviews, he was still struggling to get his head around being denied a late equaliser.
"I've watched it back and it's even worse than I thought," he said. "It's unbelievable."
Mike Maignan the focus of French celebrations
France may have smoked The Netherlands in their Euro 2024 Qualifiers opener but Ireland put up a much stiffer test of their resolve.
In the end, it was Josh Cullen gifting the ball to Benjamin Pavard and Gavin Bazunu having little chance to keep out his rasping drive. Pavard only seems to score great goals, and Ireland were on the receiving end of another.
Ireland had done a fine job of containing the likes of Kylian Mbappé & Co. for large tracts of the match but they were forced to come out of their highly organised shell for the final 20 minutes. Martin O'Neill wanted them to fling the dice earlier - incredible advice from one of the least adventurous Ireland managers in our history.
Maignan prevented Jules Kounde from heading home an own goal, just before the game slipped into time added on. He then produced a stunning, diving save that prevented that Nathan Collins equaliser and secured his team all three points.
Post-match, the RTÉ panel honed in on the focus of the French celebrations. Former Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given said:
"You might not have seen it as the footage might have cut off but all the players, at the final whistle, went straight to their goalkeeper, as if to say - brilliant, unbelievable save, you got us three points. That shows you the importance of that save."
Nathan Collins urges Ireland to kick on
Back in the mixed zone, Nathan Collins was eager to stress that this result must act as a template, and a spur, for Ireland in the rest of the qualifiers.
"We've set the standard for ourselves now," he said. "If we drop that it's only on us. It's the level the players have set and we need to keep driving that.
"I think you've seen it so many times against the big teams. We've put in performances and people get shocked by how well we do and how we hurt teams.
"But it's not just the big teams we need to perform against. We have to have that standard against the so-called smaller nations, who are obviously very high quality as well."
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