©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

As it happened: Republic of Ireland vs Estonia

After a 24-year wait, the Republic of Ireland are heading back to the European Championships. Catch up with all of the action in our minute-by-minute report here.

We had minute-by-minute coverage of this evening’s Euro 2012 play-off second leg between the Republic of Ireland and Estonia, live from the Aviva Stadium.

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FT: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Estonia (5-1 agg.)

Evening all. Welcome to the stadium formerly known as Lansdowne Road for this evening’s Euro 2012 play-off second leg between the Republic of Ireland and Estonia.

The Boys in Green may be 4-0 up thanks to Friday night’s heroics in Tallinn, but nothing’s won yet. Not until about 9.30 this evening anyway.

But in keeping with the general spirit of the evening — for the moment at least — who’s ready to party?

Tom Dunne is on MC duty here at the Aviva this evening and he’s just been speaking to two Irish legends, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge, on the big screen.

Both of the lads have kept it strictly professional and reminded players and supporters that there’s still 90 minutes to go, and that Estonia are “going to throw the kitchen sink at us tonight.”

Indeed they will. What we wouldn’t give for one early Irish goal just to put everybody’s mind at ease.

Before we get too carried away, here’s a quick run through this evening’s teams.

Republic of Ireland: Given, St Ledger, O’Shea, Dunne, Ward, Hunt, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Doyle, Keane. Substitutes: Westwood, McGeady, McCarthy, O’Dea, Fahey, Cox, Walters.

Estonia: Londak, Klavan, Jaager, Kruglov, Rahn, Teniste, Lindpere, Vunk, Vassiljev, Saag, Voskoboinikov. Substitutes: Kotenko, Barengrub, Dmitrijev, Puri, Purje, Sisov, Kink.

I do have a little bit of bad news, however. Viktor Kassai will not be lining out for Ireland our match referee this evening. Instead, Bjorn Kuipers is the man in the middle.

Can’t have everything, I suppose…

There’s still 15 minutes to go here until kick-off, so if you’re sitting comfortably, how about some light pre-match reading?

Here’s Miguel Delaney’s pre-match preview:

TONIGHT, IRELAND ARE on the edge of one of the greatest achievements in the country’s history: a fifth qualification in the team’s history.

Whatever way you look at it, it is – ultimately – a triumph. Something to be celebrated.

And, yet, the build-up feels oddly muted. As if the game itself is merely the prelude to the party afterwards.

But that’s because, really, it is.

Of course, our game is only one of four Euro 2012 play-offs this evening. Croatia v Turkey and Czech Republic v Montenegro are already up and running, while it’s a 9pm kick-off for Portugal v Bosnia.

We’ll keep you posted on all the happenings, but if you need a round-up of what’s happened thus far, here’s a quick cheat sheet (particularly handy if you’re watching the game with your buddies).

I’m not sure if this is going to be our official Euro 2012 anthem if/when we qualify, but it sure is catchy.

You may need to refresh the page for YouTubes to embed properly.

Wow. An absolutely stunning reception for President Michael D. Higgins as he met the team with the other dignitaries. This is one noisy party tonight, I can tell you that much for nothing.

We’ve just had the national anthems — now, we’re having the unofficial Irish anthem, Put ‘Em Under Pressure.

There aren’t too many bums on seats as far as I can see. Everybody is on their feet making quite a racket.

We’re off and running.

Before anyone scores, here’s a little sample of your predictions over on‘s Facebook page.

Fancy Robbie to score first myself, for what’s it’s worth.

Not to be a stickler or anything, but “Que sera sera / Whatever will be, will be / We’re going to Poland-Ukraine” doesn’t quite rhyme. I’m guessing that you knew that already though.

A quick intake of breath in some sections of the stadium as a long ball finds Voskoboinikov beyond the last Irish man, but the Estonian striker is offside. At ease, ladies and gentlemen.

Wow, I really put the mockers on Robbie tonight. He’s had two brilliant chances inside the first six minutes and missed them both.

The first came after an excellent flick-on from Doyle, Keane controlling a bobbling ball and steering it away from his marker before he went to ground with Taavi Rahn in close attendance. No pen though says our Dutch referee — we would’ve got one for that on Friday.

And then Stephen Hunt plays a clever short free-kick to Damien Duff on the edge of the box. His low drive comes off Londak’s leg in the Estonian goal and falls to an unmarked Keane four yards out. Somehow he misses it. A sitter.

There’s the night’s first booking and it goes to Rahn who came clean through the back of Duff with his studs up. No arguments from the Estonian.

Ireland have been comfortably the better side in these opening 12/13 minutes, but the Estonians have shown a glimmer of invention every now and again. Saag and Vassiljev are allowed way too much time on the ball in midfield and the latter’s through-ball nearly finds Voskoboinikov.

There’ll be a prize for whoever can think up the best abbreviated nickname for the Estonian striker. I’m not typing that all night, there’s way too many vowels in it.

(©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

Meet Alan Stapleton from Shankill. There’s a bit of an Italia 90 feel to the place tonight, if you hadn’t noticed.

The Estonians are forced into the first substitution of the night — Sander Puri is on for Dmitri Kruglov.

It’s Croatia (3) 0-0 (0) Turkey and Montenegro (0) 0-0 (2) Czech Republic at half-time in the early kick-offs. The line-up for Euro 2012 is looking more and more complete with each passing minute.

Most of them seem to be aimed at me as well. Or am I just paranoid?

I think Kevin Doyle may feel slightly threatened by Jon Walters’ performance in Tallinn last Friday night — he’s certainly playing as if he has a point to prove. He’s set free down the right wing and switches the play to open up some room, but Duff’s ball to Keane is knocked behind for a corner before it reaches its target.

GOAL! Republic of Ireland (5) 1-0 (0) Estonia (Ward, 31′) And that, I dare say, is that. The game had actually gone a little bit flat in the minutes leading up to the goal, but Ireland have the lead now and Estonia need five.

Doyle rises highest to power a header towards goal, Londak makes a bit of a mess of it and Ward reacts quickest to fire past the covering men on the line.

That’s Wardy’s second international goal for Ireland. A prize for anyone who can tell me who the first was against. Hint: it was earlier this year.

It seems that all attempts at watching the game have gone out the window as a Mexican wave rolls round and round the stadium.

On the pitch — you know, where the football is still going on — Kaimar Saag tries a nice little backheel to set Lindpere free but he loses his footing at the crucial moment and ends up going for a bit of a roll around on the Aviva turf.

We’ll have to put that one down as a half-chance from Robbie. He gets a nice little reverse pass from Stephen Hunt but Jaager and Klavan manage to crowd him out between them and he skews his shot well wide.

HALF TIME: Republic of Ireland 1-0 Estonia (5-0 agg)

That’s it for the first half. Stephen Ward is the man who has put the icing on the cake, but there may well be time for a few second-half cherries if you’ll pardon the horrendous expression.

I’m off to blag a free cup of tea. Hit me up with some thoughts on the match (or otherwise) if it takes your fancy and I’ll be back presently.

I’ve had my tea and we’re back underway. T -45 to flight-booking time.

Spotted: a man in a rugby jersey. *insert punchline here*

Stephen Ward wants goal number two and he’s not afraid to bomb forward in search of it. He starts a nice little triangular move with Duff and Whelan and skips into the box for the return ball. His shot is a weak one though and doesn’t really test Londak.

Look lively, Middlesbrough fans. Your man Tarmo Kink has just come on for Joel Lindpere. I was pretty impressed with Kink in qualifiers so let’s hope he’s just out for a bit of run tonight.

GOAL! Republic of Ireland (5) 1-1 (1) Estonia (Vassiljev, 57′) Umm, that wasn’t in the script. Kink makes an immediate contribution, working his way back in from the right before laying the ball off to dangerman Vassiljev in the pocket. He ghosts past Glenn Whelan as if he’s not even there and fires one of his trademark long-rangers. It’s pretty straight at Given — and he should do better — but the ball squirms underneath his body and into the net.

Aiden McGeady comes on to replace Duff and he carves out a great chance with his very first touches, playing the ball back inside to Keane whose shot is only stopped by an excellently-timed lunge from Klavan.

That’s just not in the spirit of the beautiful game at all. Duff pulls out a beautiful meg to go past Teniste and towards goal, but he’s taken out by Vunk just on the edge of the box. Poor form, and a booking for the Estonian.

Oooh, but a great chance from the resulting free as Dunne powers onto Andrews’s clipped cross. His header is straight at Londak though.

Another substitution for Ireland as Simon Cox comes on to replace Robbie for the final 23 minutes or so. El Capitan gets an incredible standing ovation as he marches off — all the haters obviously decided to stay home tonight.

And elsewhere in Europe, teams #13 and #14 have booked their places in next summer’s European Championships. Croatia go through 3-0 on aggregate after a 0-0 draw at home to Turkey, while Czech Republic‘s 1-0 win in Montenegro sees them through 3-0 as well.

Eighteen minutes to go and spot #15 will be ours — it’s better than being the “33rd team”, that’s for sure.

And in the race for the final place at Euro 2012, Portugal have just taken a 1-0 lead at home to Bosnia thanks to your friend and mine, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nutmeg watch: Damien Duff just got done by Tarmo Kink. That is all.

Lads, if you’re reading this, take a bow. This is not only brilliant but quite brave as well — it’s a little bit nippy in the house tonight.

Thanks to Kenneth Miller for tweeting us the pic.

And Signor Trapattoni makes his third and final substitution of the evening, introducing Keith Fahey and his ridiculous moustache for Damien Duff.

Tonight’s attendance is confirmed at 51,151 by the stadium PA. I reckon that’s as close to a full house as you can get.

Six minutes plus stoppages to play here. The atmosphere has died down a bit in this second half, but I reckon it might get loud in a couple of minutes.

Great banner spotted behind Londak’s goal simply reads: “God Save Our Keane”

Saag has two half-chances to salvage some more pride for Estonia and give them the win on the night but his first is turned behind by Sean St Ledger and his second goes high into the stands.

In the interests of democracy and fairness, the PA has just announced that Estonia will also do a lap of honour at the end of the game.

Whatever you want, lads. Whatever you want.

Glenn Whelan is the official Man of the Match which stands to reason, I suppose. Thought Doyler had a good game myself, but whatevs.

FULL TIME: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Estonia (5-1 agg)


That’s it. Ten years on from our last major tournament and a whopping 24 years on from Euro 88, we’re back.

This is gonna be great.

Wonderful scenes as the Aviva as Trap, the players and all of the backroom staff soak up a well-deserved lap of honour. Stadium staff might have a late night trying to get people out of here tonight.

Shay Given breaks off from the lap of honour to have a quick word with Tom Dunne. “We’ll put it up a few teams next summer,” says Shay. An excellent plan.

Damien Duff and Stephen Hunt are like the unruly schoolkids you can’t take your eye off for a moment. They’ve found the team’s bag of match balls and are booting each and every one of them high into the stands. Why not?

That’s that, I suppose. Barring an unthinkable disaster, tonight was never really going to be about the football but more about grinding it out for 90 minutes and then having an almighty party.

The football was decent in places, but the second half was lacking in any real intensity as evidenced by the sloppy goal gifted to Vassiljev.

Still though, in the grand scheme of things, none of that is really important. Job done, and in a far more comprehensive fashion than any of us would have dared to dream last Friday afternoon.

We’ll have all of the post-match reaction right here tonight and right throughout tomorrow, so stick around.

I’m off to see what Trap has to say for himself. “The cat is in the sack,” I bet.


Ireland v Estonia preview: let’s get the party started

Trap’s tenure: the case for and against…

Sing when you’re winning: Euro 2012 song released as qualification looms

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