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5 talking points from Ireland's play-off victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina

O’Neill gets his tactics spot on as Ireland clinch a place at Euro 2016, while Bosnia prove to be toothless.

Ireland's management team embrace at the full-time whistle.
Ireland's management team embrace at the full-time whistle.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

1. O’Neill deserves his plaudits

JON WALTERS CAME in for Stephen Ward as Ireland stuck with ten of the 11 players who lined out in Zenica three days ago.

And the Ireland boss got his selection spot on.

Brady was moved to full-back and put in the type of performance worthy of winning man-of-the-match, while Walters’ return proved decisive as he popped up with two goals.

O’Neill made a double change with just nine minutes of the second half played as Shane Long and James McClean were both introduced and it did the trick as the former stretched the Bosnian defence as they pushed men forward in search of a goal.

You couldn’t fault any one player for their effort as Ireland were well-organised and fully committed all over the pitch. 

2. Bosnia disappoint again

Bosnian manager Mehmed Bazdarevic shuffled the deck after an underwhelming display from his side in the first leg. Striker Vedad Ibesivic was dropped, with Hans Medunjanin coming into the midfield — a change which allowed Roma’s Miralem Pjanic to play further forward having sat deep last Friday.

However, it didn’t prove successful as they found little joy in the first half. Everton’s Muhamed Besic was introduced at half-time and although they bossed possession, the visitors didn’t do enough to trouble Darren Randolph with captain Edin Dzeko particularly poor.

Without taking anything away from Ireland’s achievement, the opposition are a far more average side, over these two legs at least, than we had bigged them up to be prior to the games.

3. A bit of good luck comes our way

Jon Walters got the ball rolling from the penalty spot after referee Bjorn Kuipers ruled that Bosnia’s Ervin Zukanovic had handled Daryl Murphy’s chipped cross.

It looked a harsh decision as replays showed the defender attempting to block the ball with his arm in by his body.

But while that was a significant moment, it wasn’t the match-defining one and Ireland were worthy winners thanks to Walters’ second.

4. One sour note on a great night

Moments before kick-off, a minute’s silence was planned to remember the victims of last weekend’s Paris attacks, which claimed the lives of 129 people and left many more injured.

The vast majority of the 50,000 fans present at the Aviva Stadium observed the mark of respect, but unfortunately a small number of Bosnian fans chose to shout their way through it.

As a result, a couple of Irish supporters responded by audibly expressing their anger before a round of applause was started in an attempt to drown out the disruption.

5. Scrap your plans for next summer

It has been a rollercoaster of qualifying campaign and they may have done it the hard way but Ireland will be one of the 24 teams to compete at Euro 2016 in France next June.

Drawn in one of the more difficult groups, at one stage it appeared that qualification was beyond them. However, this limited group of players has shown resilience and a steely grit at the vital times.

Think back to the late goals against Georgia, Germany and Scotland, overcoming the world champions in Dublin, and now this latest victory.

As always, fans will travel in large numbers but debate about what the recent terrorist attacks in France mean for those planning to make the trip are for another day.

Tonight, O’Neill, his backroom staff and the whole squad can toast to securing the country’s sixth appearance at a major tournament.

– First published 22.56, 16 Nov

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Ben Blake

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