“Randolph sends it long…and Shane Long is in behind the German defence… Shane Long against Neuer…. 1-0!.. What a moment!”
After scraping by Georgia in their previous Group D game, Ireland still had a niggling Scottish team breathing down their necks, with a play-off spot still up for grabs.
Scotland had taken four points from a possible six against O’Neill’s side and despite losing to Germany the week previous, were confident of a result against Poland, with the world champions expected to easily see off Ireland.
The Scottish effort, a 2-3 defeat, will have given Ireland hope, however, and John O’Shea’s goal in the reverse fixture the year previous will have led Ireland to believe that maybe, just maybe, a result was possible.
It was still, however, a momentous task for the Boys in Green.
The Match Itself
As expected, Ireland were under the cosh for the majority of the game against Germany. The world champions took control in the opening few minutes, passing their way into the Ireland half and winning early corners that would put immediate pressure on the Irish defence.
The first half would continue in much the same fashion, as Germany showed their quality, Richard Keogh and John O’Shea at the heart of the Irish defence working hard to deny the likes of Ilkay Gundogan and Mario Gotze.
Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil did have the ball in the Irish net midway through the first half, but with Irish hearts, in mouths, the linesman made the correct call and ruled it out for offside.
Ireland did have a half chance when Jon Walters got in front of Mats Hummels to meet a Cyrus Christie cross, but it failed to threaten Neuer as Germany saw out an expectedly dominant half.
There was a big blow, for the Boys in Green, however, when Shay Given was stretchered off just before the break to be replaced by Darren Randolph, who must’ve known he’d be one of the busiest men in the stadium.
The second 45 began in the same vein with Germany dominating possession but there was a lingering feeling that perhaps their usually so potent attack was getting frustrated with the dogged Irish defence.
Former Chelsea striker Andre Schurrle saw a couple of solid chances wasted as Ireland started to grow into the game, Shane Long coming onto the field in the 65th minute, with the hopes of catching a sleeping German defence on the break.
He was only on the field five minutes when the Southampton man raced onto a long-ball from Darren Randolph after the German defensive pairing foolishly let the ball bounce between them.
Long’s first touch set himself up perfectly after his blistering pace took him past Hector and Hummels, as he unleashed a venomous shot past the desperate Neuer in the German goal. 1-0.
— Dave O'Grady (@DaveOGrady1) October 9, 2015
If there was a roof on the Aviva Stadium, it would’ve come off.
And thus began the longest 20 minutes in Irish football history as O’Neill’s side desperately tried to hold on for what would be one of the most famous victories in recent memory.
The Germans piled on the pressure, as Hummels, Boateng, Muller and Gundogan all tried and all ultimately failed to unlock the Irish defence.
With just over 94 minutes played, referee Carlos Velasco Carballo brought the whistle to his lips and sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy.
A playoff spot was secured following Scotland’s draw with Poland and automatic qualification was still a possibility.
After defeat to Poland in the final group game Ireland would defeat Bosnia in a two-legged play-off to qualify for Euro 2016 in France.
A 1-1 draw in a foggy Zenica and a Jon Walters inspired 2-0 victory back at the Aviva saw Ireland head into a tough group with Sweden, Belgium and Italy.
An opening draw against Sweden and a resounding defeat by Belgium meant that a victory against heavily fancied Italy would be required in the last group game if Ireland were to stand any chance of last 16 qualification.
Thanks to Robbie Brady, we all know how that one turned out.
Ireland eventually lost 2-1 to France in the last 16 but the tournament was considered a resounding success for the Boys in Green. A success that would have been hard to fathom had Shane Long not put the ball in the German net on the 8th of October 2015.