Póg Mo Goal’s player ratings:
Well, no one was expecting that. All the pre-match thought predicted a cagey Irish performance, a low-scoring game, and deemed an away goal a bonus. We can book the flights to Poland and Ukraine. A 4-0 win reflected a dominant Irish performance, particularly in the second half and the nation is waking up today with a massive smile on her face. Dublin on Tuesday is going to be a hell of a party.
Even Giovanni Trapattoni seemed overwhelmed by it all confessing that he was very emotional at the game’s conclusion. He and his assistant Marco Tardelli have taken this bunch of players to their hearts and instilled a fierce belief in their ability to forge results. Based on a system that has seen their confidence soar as the campaign progressed it culminated in a first-leg scoreline that will have sent shock-waves around Europe.
Here’s how the Boys in Green rated:
We don’t normally see Shay come out and claim crosses but the sight of him doing it in Tallinn indicated the confidence running throughout the side. Estonia’s only real threat was from long range shots and one of the top ‘keepers in the world doesn’t often get beaten from distance. Too many times we’ve seen Shay in tears after play-offs. “I can’t take the smile off my face,” he said last night.
Solid showing at full-back if unable to link up with the wingers on the flanks. Kelly has more than contributed to this qualifying campaign by proving trustworthy when called upon.
Sometimes the TV cameras don’t pick the enormous amount of little things Dunne does, getting toe pokes in, jostling opponents off the ball. He made one such crucial block early on when Estonia managed to thread the ball into a shooting opportunity inside the penalty area and the deflected ball bounced easily for Shay to gather. Dunne’s work-rate epitomises the spirit of this Irish squad.
Sean St Ledger
Has built up a brilliant understanding with Dunne and like his partner at the back, has the knack of timing his blocks to perfection. Estonia’s attack left him largely untroubled but he was dependable and lay the foundation for the Irish performance.
A return to his best displays in an Irish shirt. As Darragh Maloney pointed out in commentary, Ward played in the same stadium with Bohemians and his stellar rise means he is first choice now at left-back. Has built up a fine partnership at club level with Stephen Hunt and we saw glimpses of that late on.
Another who deserves to qualify after the heart-breaking images of him from Paris two years ago. Like his team-mates, Duffer struggled to find rhythm in the first half but his work-rate is phenomenal and his burst of pace had Estonia in plenty of trouble.
Ireland’s second half showing was built on the growing confidence of the central pair of Whelan and Andrews. We said he needed to step up to the mark and Whelan delivered. He broke up play and imposed himself on the Estonian midfield but still lacks the willingness to look for the ball when we have possession.
A stand-out performance particularly in the second half when he echoed his display in Paris two years ago. Andrews was far less wasteful with possession and was willing to get into shooting positions. He took on the role of driving the team on and he can take a lot of credit for Ireland putting four past Estonia away from home. Took his header brilliantly.
An excellent shift by McGeady who matched Duff’s threat on the opposite flank. His end product was vastly improved and his cross for Andrews’ goal was superb, preceded by a piece of fancy footwork. He has grown during this campaign and perhaps he is finally developing into the player everyone was predicting.
He has been something of a scoring sensation in an Irish shirt under Trap and Robbie’s first last night, reacting to the ‘keeper’s parry has been the hallmark of his qualifying campaign. Doesn’t hold the ball up as much as our other striking options but he was as sprightly as ever on the ball, showing no ill effects from his recent injury. He also sent Stephen Hunt away for the penalty and was a menace in front of goal.
The big man put in a massive performance on his first start in the Ireland team. Took his goal brilliantly and was always looking for a sight at the target. Held the ball up and proved a handful for the Estonian defence even when they were in possession. He offers something different in terms of physical stature and Trap has a genuine selection headache now up front.
Outstanding. Have you ever seen anything so impressive. What a moustache! If that’s for Movember, that is impressive growth after just 11 days. Fahey could be the new John Wark, the man to bring back the lip slug to the world stage because he will be a vital part of Ireland’s midfield options in Polkraine next summer.
Straight into the pace of the game. Won the penalty by flinging himself to the floor but there was definite contact and he was clever enough to do it. Still has much to offer as an impact sub.
Replaced Walters late on and he is one of the players who, as Marco Tardelli suggested, can put himself in the shop window with his displays for Ireland. Was close to starting this game and is very much in the mind of the manager for striking options.
Giovanni Trapattoni will afford Estonia the respect they reserve for Tuesday’s game because he is a football man of integrity. He has led Ireland back to football’s top table and what is just as heart-warming is that, as Liam Brady suggested, this achievement will rank alongside his greatest in a CV that is the envy of every footballing nation.
Trap has sustained the brunt of criticism for the style of this Irish team. Now he rightly deserves the plaudits for, what he has said was most important all along, a quite astonishing result.