IT is no wonder James McClean was celebrating with a kiss and a hug for his wife tonight.
At the final whistle, James searched out wife Erin, mother of his three children, to kiss and embrace her after his 57 minute wonder goal broke the hearts of Wales and made Irish eyes smile all over the world.
After kissing Erin, the Creggan lad hugged ecstatic Irish supporters who had made the trip to Cardiff for the winner takes all game against Wales.
His goal means Ireland are just one game away of potentially reaching next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
All four of James McClean’s goals in these qualifiers came in the second half of away matches.
McClean scored the winning goal in three different matches for Ireland in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers – without his goals, they would have been six points worse off.
Tonight’s magnificent victory means that Republic of Ireland ended the 2018 World Cup qualifiers unbeaten away from home (W3 D2 L0).
A marvellous achievement by manager Martin O’Neill and his trusted assistant Roy Keane.
It’s another triumph for O’Neill who tactically got the game spot-on again, despite the doubters.
O’Neill said after the game: “So proud.
“The players were magnificent playing away from home at a very good Welsh side. To win on their territory was a great result for us.
“That last half hour seemed an eternity. We had to withstand pressure but we knew at some stage we would have to try to win the game and we did it. The goal was worthy of winning any game.
“We are in the play-offs. Whenever the draw is made we will take our chance.
“The impression of our campaign? Absolutely delighted.
“When the draw was made I thought we had a very difficult group.
“We have come through, fantastic.”
Wales didn’t get a single genuine chance outside of Robson-Kanu’s second half header and while Shane Duffy was named man-of-the-match is could have been any member of that Irish defence – particularly Ciaran Clark.
To go to the final game in such an intimidating stadium and to inflict Wales first defeat of the campaign on them is a huge achievement.
Former Wales and Celtic striker John Hartson said after the game:
“The Welsh players will be extremely, extremely down – Wales had to win their last four games, they won three and just came up a little short tonight.
“Wales were not quite inventive and creative enough around the Irish penalty area tonight.
“The Irish were outstanding defensively.”Tags: