The Republic made history last night (Wednesday, June 22) by progressing to the knockout stages of the European Championship finals for the first time with a late 1-0 win over Italy in Lille.
As the third-placed team in Group E, they’ll now meet tournament hosts France in the round of 16 on Sunday afternoon in Lyon.
Former wing wizard Tony, part of our successful side of the early 1980s and a member of the Republic squad in their first ever Euro finals in West Germany in 1988, was thrilled to see his country make progress and anticipates a real spectacle against a French side skippered by Hugo Lloris at the weekend.
“Last time they were in the Euros in 2012 they had an absolute nightmare – they played three, lost three and got beaten by Italy so this sort of makes up for that,” the 59-year-old, who still turns out for the Spurs Legends team, told us this morning.
“Ireland were on top for a spell last night but we’ve seen enough football over the years to know that one of the hardest things is to put the ball in the net. When Ireland missed that chance when Wes Hoolahan went through with a one-on-one on the keeper and it looked like he was just going to slot it in you felt that maybe the chance had gone, but then a couple of minutes later Robbie Brady came up with a superb header. It was a great cross in as well.
“I think it’s tremendous because the supporters have been absolutely magnificent and I think they needed something to shout about after having a tough time of it for a few years.
“Now in the next round they’ve got the big one – they couldn’t wish for a better game than playing France, actually. It’s going to be a great game. There’s no pressure on them and, playing in front of the French supporters, most people will probably write them off but it won’t be easy for France because Ireland will work very hard.
“Obviously France have got Hugo Lloris and they’ll certainly be a hard team to score against. France don’t concede many goals and they’ve got arguably one of the two best goalkeepers in the world who we’ve obviously seen at Spurs, so that will be a problem. I can’t see there being a lot of goals but hopefully Ireland can nick a goal from somewhere and then defend manfully for the rest of the game. It should be a magnificent occasion.”