Ireland qualify for Euro 2016 as Jonathan Walters helps exorcise ghost of Thierry Henry handball
Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill hailed the battling qualities of his side after they overcame Bosnia-Herzegovina in a nervy play-off at the Aviva Stadium last night to qualify for next year’s European Championships.
Ireland are no strangers to play-offs and had lost five of their previous seven, but a goal in each half from Stoke hitman Jonathan Walters proved an antidote to that unwanted sequence.
Victory also went some way to exorcising the ghost of Thierry Henry’s infamous handball, which denied Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while the Irish have now qualified for back-to-back European Championships for the first time in history.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team, they have been fantastic right from the very start,” said O’Neill. “I hold the players in the most enormous esteem. We might be short of a number of things but courage, determination and fight are things they posses in abundance.”
Whereas six years ago Ireland rued the failure of the referee to spot Henry’s handball, this time around they benefitted from the fortuitous decision to penalise Ervin Zukanovic in the first half.
Walters dispatched the resulting penalty and added a second on 70 minutes, firing past former Stoke team-mate Asmir Begovic with a side-foot volley.