Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon
IT may not quite have been Stuttgart in ’88 or Genoa in 1990 or the Giants Stadium in ’94 but the Republic of Ireland’s historic 1-0 victory over Austria in Vienna last Saturday was still one to savour, particularly if you were perched high up in the rafters in the away section of Ernst Happel Stadium.
On another occasion, perhaps, that might have been where Galway native and Dundalk FC winger Daryl Horgan may have found himself but these are heady days for the former Salthill Devon player who was snuggly nestled on the Republic of Ireland’s bench after being selected in Martin O’Neill’s 23-man match day squad.
It was some achievement for the highly rated Horgan but, then again, given the 24-year-old’s stellar performances for kingpins Dundalk in both the League of Ireland and Europa League, in addition to his displays in the early rounds of the Champions League, his selection was richly deserved.
“It was a massive honour to get a call-up into the Republic of Ireland squad, first and foremost, and, fortunately for myself, I made the bench. I didn’t get on but, look, it was a massive game and it was a great result at the end of it,” begins a delighted Horgan, who described the atmosphere in the stadium on one of the great nights for Irish soccer as “absolutely unbelievable”.
No doubt, it must have been something else for Horgan to walk into the dressing room and find an Irish jersey with his name on the back of it hanging up, waiting for him. He admits it was “a special moment” – one that surely must have seen him grow to 10 foot tall.
Horgan laughs. “I don’t know about 10 foot but I probably made 5ft 7’,” quips the impish 5ft 6’ winger.
With Everton’s James McClean netting the all-important goal on 47 minutes, the Republic of Ireland claimed top spot in Group D. More importantly, they have ensured World Cup qualification is in their own hands. Yet, by half-time against in Vienna, Horgan acknowledges the outcome was not as clear-cut.
“Yeah, in the first half, Austria were probably the better side to be fair,” he says. “They had a couple of chances but I think the two lads in the centre of defence (Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark) held up really well and Darren Randolph then made a couple of great saves.
“Once it was nil-all at half-time, the second half was just a different animal altogether. There was only one team who was going to win it and for a team that was so highly fancied in Austria, it was an unbelievable performance and a deserved victory.”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.