'They were in my ear. You've got to be mentally strong' - Walters talks us through a historic night

We did it the hard way, says Walters as he savours European Championship return.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

— Niall Kelly reports from the Aviva Stadium

EURO HERO JON Walters praised Ireland’s never-say-die attitude as Martin O’Neill’s side booked their place on the plane to France.

Walters fired a goal in each half to ensure that the Boys in Green will be in the pot when the Euro 2016 draw is made on 12 December.

“It’s everything, really,” a delighted Walters beamed after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“It’s what we’ve played for for the last two years. It was a difficult time with ups and downs but we got there in the end.”

After taking just one point from a possible six against Scotland, Ireland’s campaign looked dead in the water.

But they finished with three vital wins from four, including the scalp of world champions Germany, and then outplayed Bosnia over the two legs of the play-off.

“A few people were saying that after the game, a few Scottish players, so it’s nice to put that right,” Walters said.

There were always going to be ups and downs in the qualifying campaign. We said that we’ve got to deal with the lows, that it was never going to be a straight line to qualification.

“We’ve done it the hard way but we’ve got there.”

Ervin Zukanovic’s handball gave Walters the chance to break the deadlock on 24 minutes, and he had plenty of time to weigh up his options as Bosnia protested to referee Bjorn Kuipers.

When the dust finally settled he was faced with the familiar sight of Asmir Begovic, but sent his former Stoke City team-mate the wrong way to give Ireland a crucial lead on the night and on aggregate.

“Someone had a little kick at the penalty spot as well,” Walters recalled. “They were in my ear behind me as I was about to take it.

You’ve got to be mentally strong and I’ll always put my hand up for penalties.

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On facing Begovic, he added: “You’ve just got to hit the target and hope for the best.

Keepers can guess the right way but I probably double-bluffed him because he’s seen a few penalties I’ve hit and he watches them.

“It was just head down and hit the target and hope for the best.”

His second, on 70 minutes, came courtesy of a Robbie Brady cross and Walters was quick to praise the Norwich man’s set piece threat.

“Robbie’s got great delivery, one of the best I’ve seen.

“He hit a few bad ones today but he told me he was putting it to the back post. I just tried to make my run there and get on the end of it.

When I’m in that position, there’s no chance that I’m trying to do anything except hit the target. I’m not trying to lay it off. Thankfully it went in.

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Niall Kelly

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