By Alan Duffy
Everything that could have gone right for the Boys In Green on Friday night did. Four away goals, two (opposition) sendings-off and a clean sheet to take back to the Aviva Stadium made Ireland’s play-off victory over Estonia in Talinn the perfect night for the Republic.
Stoke’s Jonathan Walters has bee something of a revelation for his club in 2011, and the striker, in for the suspended Kevin Doyle once again impressed up front, netting the second goal from close range on 67 minutes. This had come after the much-maligned Keith Andrews had opened the scoring from an Aiden McGeady cross and Estonia had gone down to 10 men when Andrei Stepanov was sent off for a second yellow.
A brace from Robbie Keane (including a penalty), which all but killed off the whole tie, sandwiched another Estonian sending off, this time with Raio Piiroja receiving his marching orders late on, as Giovanni Trapattoni’s men marched towards Polkraine 2012.
The home side arguably didn’t deserve to lose by such a margin but after that nasty 2010 World Cup play-off disappointment against France, the Irish finally have something to cheer about.
Tuesday’s dead rubber will now bring “a carnival atmosphere” as people are “dancing in the streets of Dublin” as “the partying goes well into the wee small hours”. Throw in a few mentions of Guinness and you can basically write the commentator’s script yourself.
On a more serious point, given Ireland’s dreadful current economic state, an appearance at the Euro 2012 finals will give the country a welcome boost. Qualification for the 1988 Euro finals and Italia ’90 kind of set the scene for the emergence of the Celtic Tiger boom. No doubt many Irish will be hoping Polkraine does the same.