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It's about the journey* - 10 best bits from Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign

*Not the destination, right?

That goal: One of our 10 of the most memorable moments.
That goal: One of our 10 of the most memorable moments.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT DIDN’T END the way we had hoped it would.

Very far from it actually.

We’ll not speak of that November night at the Aviva and how Christian Eriksen broke Irish hearts and shattered the World Cup dream.

There’ll be no Russia 2018. But there is that saying, ‘It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’.

And what a journey it was. One of ups and downs, highs and lows, and absolutely no shortage of permutations. Here’s a look back at just some of the best bits, in no order:

1. THAT goal in Cardiff

Possibly the most memorable moment of the entire Irish sporting year. 56 minutes on the clock, the deadlock yet to be broken.

Superb work from Jeff Hendrick down the right side, an excellent cross and an absolute belter from James McClean to seal a play-off place.

A thing of beauty. Go on, watch it once more:

2. Shane Long hugging Seamus Coleman

The only image of Seamus Coleman that needed to be seen following his horrific leg break back in March.

Shane Long’s wife revealed after that the striker employed breathing techniques used during her pregnancy to help Coleman through the pain. What a moment in the middle of all of the madness.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-24-at-22.05.06-1000x600 Source: Sky Sports.

3. MON and TOD and those post-match interviews

Well, there was never any love lost between the pair.

There was the interview following the 1-1 draw in Georgia. Martin O’Neill was far from impressed with Tony O’Donoghue’s line of questioning in the RTÉ interview, and went on the defensive. Here’s a snippet of the conversation:

TOD: “Can you put your finger on why that might have been?”

MON: “I can, yes. Of course I can.”

TOD: “Are you going to share that with us?”

MON:“There’s no point.”

TOD: “Why?”

MON: “Why? Well, why would I want to share it with you?”

There was another tetchy post-match interview after their final fixture, one which ended in O’Neill cutting it short.

“Let me finish” — enough said.

4. Remembering Ryan McBride

The late Ryan McBride was remembered accordingly at the Aviva back in March.

James McClean wearing the number 5 shirt in memory of Derry City captain Ryan McBride Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Close friend and former teammate James McClean wore the number five jersey in his honour. The Welsh visitors also pulled off a lovely gesture before kick-off as they presented President Michael D Higgins with a number five jersey.

There was also a moment’s applause before kick-off and in the fifth minute.

President Michael D Higgins holds up a jersey presented by Wales in tribute to Ryan McBride Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

5. One of our own 

The FAI and Irish fans all came together in November in support of Cyrus Christie after it emerged that he was racially abused online.

He was targeted on Twitter after Ireland’s 5-1 play-off loss to Denmark, but players, fans and associations alike rallied around the Middlesborough defender in unity.

One of our own. 🇮🇪💚 #COYBIG

A post shared by FAIreland (@faireland) on

6. Jon Walters’ volley goal

Another one of Ireland’s top goals from the campaign, Walters smashed home a late volley to secure a goal against Austria.

Along ball was sent forward and after a race for possession, Walters found himself in a one-on-one situation. He took a second to compose himself and rifled a volley into the bottom corner of the net.

What a strike.

7. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

RTÉ’s montage in which Brendan Gleeson starred with an inspiring poem before the second leg against Denmark was one to get everyone in the mood.

Those unforgettable nights reeled in the background — Stuttgart, Giant’s Stadium, Genoa, Lille, Cardiff.

But it’s a pity that night in Dublin was one to forget rather than join the list.

8. Wales singing their anthem in Cardiff

This one’s technically not about Ireland but it was before their clash at Cardiff and was too good to leave out.

Spine-tingling, to be fair.

9. The Dunphy-Wes-Gilesy love triangle

It’s no secret that Eamon Dunphy loves Wes Hoolahan. He got riled up more than once over Hoolahan’s omission in starting line-ups and praised him to no end time and time again.

He even called him his ‘love child’ once. Jokingly…… but not really.

“Wes Hoolahan should always play when he’s available,” as Dunphy said after the 1-0 defeat to Serbia in September. Simple as.

And Giles was always first to agree with his fellow analyst.

Wes Hoolahan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

10. That goal that made us think we were going to Russia

The scenes in the Aviva as Ireland went 1-0 up after just six minutes. Robbie Brady’s free-kick eventually found the head of Shane Duffy and into the back of the net then to send Ireland fans into ecstasy.

The best of times before the worst of times.

Shane Duffy scores their first goal past Kasper Schmeichel Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

And so, we go again.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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