Martin O’Neill has hailed James McClean after his superb goal took the Republic of Ireland into the World Cup playoffs, at the expense of Wales.
The West Brom winger’s second-half strike was the distinction between a feisty contest in Cardiff.
It was McClean’s fourth goal of the qualifying campaign.
Martin O’Neill praised the West Brom winger after the crucial win in Cardiff
O’Neill had to say: ‘James has just been magnificent for us. He just keeps going and going. His drive and determination have been our trademark.
‘He’s brilliant. He might not have the same total ability as Gareth Bale, but he’s been great for us. He’s been a talisman as Jon Walters was in the qualifying groups for the Euros.’
O’Neill added: ‘I’m so proud of the players, they were magnificent. We were playing away from home against a strong Wales side, so to come here and win is great.
This was McClean’s 4th goal of the qualifying campaign after already winning in Moldova and Austria.
‘The last half hour seemed an eternity. But I’ve never doubted the character of the players, that’s instilled in them. We might lack a few things but courage is not one of them.
‘In different matches, sometimes we can do better with the ball. But trying to qualify for the World Cup is a monumental task.’
Ireland are now in next Tuesday’s draw for the two-legged playoffs in November’s. As it stands Italy, Portugal, Croatia or Denmark would be the opposition, but that may change yet.
‘I don’t think everybody would want to play us,’ said O’Neill, whose captain Seamus Coleman could be fit to feature in those games after seven months out with a broken leg.
McClean had this to say: ‘A lot of people wrote us off and didn’t give us a chance – so we’ll enjoy this now.’
Jeff Hendrick added: ‘I remember it just coming across, it was a great dummy by Harry (Arter) and as it was coming across I just said, ‘Keep it down’.
‘That feeling when it hit the back of the net… there’s no better feeling on a football pitch. But it’ll mean nothing if we don’t go and qualify now.’