It was the biggest game for Ireland in years. Martin O’Neill’s side had the chance of making Euro 2016. One game remained for the Irish side. A second leg playoff at home against Bosnia and Herzegovnia, for the chance of making a European Championships. The Boys in Green came back to the Aviva Stadium with the advantage firmly in their hands. They secured an important 1-1 draw away from home in the foggy city of Zenica. Robbie Brady put Ireland in the lead with 10 minutes to go in Bosnia, Dzeko then equalized three minutes later. Ireland were confident they could progress to the Euros after securing the away goal.
Making the walk down through Ballsbridge towards the Aviva stadium the night of the second leg was like no other. Fans were in full voice and fully expected Ireland to make another European Championships. The pubs were thronged and the atmosphere was electric. As a 16 year old at the time, it was the first time I experienced such a build up to a game. After being at the first leg in Bosnia, I was in high hopes of seeing my country make a major tournament. The first leg was a brilliant experience personally to see a country like Bosnia and the trip was made better due to Ireland’s result away from home.
As we came towards the lit up Aviva, fans were chanting and singing passionately. I got to my seat which was situated in the middle of the Boys in Green Army. “Come on you boys in green” rang around the stadium as the two teams entered the stadium. Ireland were 90 minutes away from making Euro 2016. Peoples’ summers were resting on one game; the fans wanted the win just as much as the players did. Kick off.
Ireland started the strongest, they wanted it more. The crowd acted as a 12th man as they urged the ball towards the opposition goal. The dead lock was finally broken in the 24th minute when a Bosnian player handled the ball in the penalty area. Jon Walters took the responsibility and stepped up to calmly put the penalty into the bottom corner, sending Begovic the wrong way. The fans went wild, Ireland were in pole position to win the playoff. The half time whistle blew and the Irish team held their 1-0 advantage, 2-1 on aggregate. The atmosphere continued throughout the break as many fans stocked up on beer and were ready to see their country qualify for France.
The second half began and Ireland continued where they left off. Ireland were awarded a free kick in the 70th minute and Jon Walters bagged his second goal on the night after a fantastic delivery from Robbie Brady. There was no way back for Bosnia from here. Ireland were 20 minutes away from confirming their place at Euro 2016. Irish fans enjoyed every minute as they continued to roar on the Boys in Green to the very end.
The final whistle blew. Ireland had now qualified for Euros. The stadium stood up in joy as they clapped the Irish players for their performance. Martin O Neill and Roy Keane celebrated as they had just led their team to France. Man of the match Jon Walters was now a hero amongst Irish fans after his two goals. I stood there and took it all in, a night I won’t forget, similar to the Germany game. Hopefully, when the playoff’s for next year’s European Championships are played; we will have a similar result and make another major tournament!