Poll: Has O’Neill completed the biggest feat of any Ireland boss?
Jonathan Walters was the man to write his name into folklore as his two goals helped the Republic of Ireland book their place at Euro 2016 on Monday night.
A 2-0 win over Bosnia at the Aviva Stadium gave the Emerald Isle a 3-1 aggregate success, to spark scenes of euphoria across Dublin and beyond.
Pundits were quick to lavish praise on Republic boss Martin O’Neill for the job he has done.
BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson went even further suggesting it was the greatest feat by an Ireland manager considering the personnel he had at his disposal.
“The secret of being a top manager is that you get a little bit extra from every player and that is what Martin O’Neill does. It’s a fantastic achievement,” he said.
“He has probably had the least talented group of players available of any Irish manager who has qualified.
“Throughout the games they have had to pick Championship players and that’s why the achievement is greater than before. In other Ireland qualification teams they have had four or five really top players, but there are no superstars in this squad.”
Of the 11 players that started the match last night, only Darren Randolph (West Ham) and the Everton pair of James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman play for clubs in the top half of the Premier League.
In reaching next summer’s tournament in France, O’Neill guided his men to just their third foray into the premier European competition.
The next test will be whether they can progress past the group stages, something they have not done before.
And with more teams qualifying, it might be safe to assume that the groups will become more diluted making such a target more achievable.
For now though, the Irish can wallow in their pride of their national team on booking their spot.
But is Lawro right? Is this really the greatest achievement by an Irish manager? Or have the extra spots available made all the difference?
Vote now in today’s poll…
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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