The Republic of Ireland national side has become synonymous with late goals over the years, as a determined attitude from the Boys in Green has paid dividends time and time again.
In fact, even on the road to France in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, the winner against Georgia and equalisers against Germany and Poland were all scored in injury time – and then of course there were the heroics of Robbie Brady in the final minutes against Italy in Lille.
In a footballing history littered with dramatic equalisers and winners, choosing five is no easy task. Honourable mentions go to Shane Long’s equaliser against Poland at the Aviva in 2014 and Noel Hunt/Robbie Keane’s late effort against Italy in 2009, but here are the goals that got the nod.
5. Aiden McGeady – Georgia 1-2 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2016 Qualifier, September 7th 2014)
Though McGeady was not a regular starter by the time Euro 2016 rolled around, without his contribution here Ireland might never have made it to France as he bagged two goals in Tblisi.
However, it was his second strike that really stood out. An absolutely stunning display of ball control from the then-Everton winger to create the space to turn and get the shot away just as it looked as if Ireland would have to settle for a point.
4. Stephen Ireland – San Marino 1-2 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2008 Qualifier, February 7th 2007)
What should have been a routine victory almost became the worst result in Irish football history (with the greatest of respect to San Marino). Steve Staunton had begun flailing badly as Ireland boss, with the 5-2 thrashing in Cyprus still relatively fresh in the minds of the travelling fans, but even “the gaffer” couldn’t mess this up…right?
It took until the 47th minute to take the lead, and while that should have ended it as a contest, a calamitous mix-up between goalkeeper Wayne Henderson and the Irish defence allowed Manuel Marani to bundle over an equaliser with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Ireland (the player, not the country) proved to be the hero in the final seconds of stoppage time by prodding home the winner, probably keeping Staunton in a job for that bit longer.
Now let us never speak of this again.
3. Robbie Keane – Germany 1-1 Rep. of Ireland (World Cup 2002, June 5th 2002)
Germany had come into this game in Ibaraki off the back of viciously thrashing Saudi Arabia 8-0, while Ireland needed to avoid defeat in order to ensure that qualification for the next round was in their own hands.
When serial tournament goalscorer Miroslav Klose put the Germans in front after just 20 minutes, it looked fairly ominous for Mick McCarthy’s side despite applying some pressure afterwards.
Enter Robbie. Mark Kinsella played a long, hopeful ball towards the German box injury time, Niall Quinn headed down into the path of Keane, whose shot bounced in despite the best efforts of Oliver Kahn and the German post.
2. John O’Shea – Germany 1-1 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2016 Qualifier, October 14th 2014)
This would be (on paper at least) the hardest match Ireland would have in their Euro 2016 qualification campaign. In the eyes of many, Martin O’Neill’s side would do well to keep the score down against a German side that had just won the World Cup.
However, this teamwas made of sterner stuff than that, so even when they went behind to a Toni Kroos strike with 20 minutes remaining, their heads did not drop.
They kept plugging away and rewarded for their efforts when John O’Shea, winning his 100th cap, turned home an equaliser in stoppage time after some great work from Jeff Hendrick to get the ball into the path of the Sunderland defender.
1. Robbie Brady – Italy 0-1 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2016, June 22nd 2016)
What else was it going to be?
Ireland needed to beat Italy, who themselves were already through, to qualify for the second round of Euro 2016. Both sides took risks by making a number of changes for the game, and it looked like Martin O’Neill’s gamble was paying off as his team looked far more up for it than they had been against Belgium in the previous match.
However, the game was slipping away from them, and when Wes Hoolahan missed a great chance near the end it seemed as though their chance had gone.
Thankfully, Hoolahan recovered almost immediately, and supplied a brilliant ball into the box for Robbie Brady to head home and instantly make himself a national hero.
At the final whistle, all an emotionally exhausted Irish nation could do was cry with relief and happiness.