Frank McNally: Ireland win famous victory over Germany

Long’s goal sets off the most raucous celebrations in Lansdowne since McAteer in 2001

Germany had the ghoulies and ghosties, as usual. But on another night of early Hallowe'en drama at the Aviva, Ireland had the Long-legged beastie - first name Shane - who scored the goal that won a famous victory against the world champions.

The result means that Martin O'Neill's team is guaranteed at least a third place play-off for next year's European Championships in France.

And had Scotland held on for a minute longer against the Poles in Glasgow, Ireland would now be a scoreless draw away from automatic qualification.

As it is, Poland’s late equaliser means we must win or score twice while drawing in Warsaw on Sunday to finish second.


But with third place secured, we have nothing to lose. And after beating Germany, surely anything’s possible.

For much of the evening, none of these scenarios looked likely, as the Germans’ slick passing evoked the terrors of another October, three years ago, when they won here 6-1.

The teams entered the pitch to the soundtrack of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Thereafter, for most of the first half, the Germans played like the Berlin Philharmonic, with Ireland guesting on second fiddles while looking like they hadn’t seen the music before.

The visitors owned the ball. And yet, paradoxically, Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given hadn’t warmed his hands with a save before being stretchered off just before half-time with a twisted knee injury.

Germany’s pattern

The pattern of Germany carving the home defence open but then shooting high or wide continued into the second half, most notably when Schurrle met a sumptuous Reus cross on the volley and, in GAA terms, took his point.

But it seemed only a matter of time before one of their perfectly teed-up shots would hit the target.

And then, sensationally, a player did at last find the corner of a net, and he was wearing a green shirt.

Shane Long had been on the field only a few minutes as a 65th minute sub, when he raced on to a through ball and finished the way the Germans were supposed to, setting off the most raucous celebrations in Lansdowne since Jason McAteer's goal against another team of European aristocrats back in 2001.

If O’Neill’s team had defended desperately before that, it was nothing like the last 20 minutes, as they threw themselves at every German shot like their lives, and not just a play-off place, depended on it.

But they had cunning as well as guts, especially during a prolonged episode at the start of injury time when successive green-shirted players took the ball into the top right-hand corner and hugged the flag as if it was their new best friend.

The Germans escaped from there eventually, but it was too late. They didn’t have time to launch another meaningful attack before the final whistle unleashed another guttural roar, this time of relief as well as celebration.

Meanwhile in Belfast, the other Ireland cruised to the win they needed over Greece, booking their passage to France next year with a game to spare.

Frank McNally

Frank McNally

Frank McNally is an Irish Times journalist and chief writer of An Irish Diary