With Just Eat offering fans the chance to win tickets to EURO2020 next year, Off The Ball spoke with former Republic of Ireland player David Meyler about his favourite EUROs moments.
The 31-year-old played 26 times for the republic and was given the captain’s armband on several occasions throughout his career.
“[My favourite moment of the EUROs] would have to be when I was involved with Ireland in EURO2016,” Meyler said.
Ireland in EURO2016
In 2016, the ROI squad qualified for the round of 16 after a 0-1 victory over Italy in their last pool game.
They had already drawn 1-1 to Sweden and lost 3-0 to Belgium earlier in the tournament.
“We had the game against Sweden, then we had the disappointing result against Belgium, but we went into the Italy game needing a result,” Meyler said.
“For us to beat Italy was just a surreal night and a surreal moment.
“That night was just special because it was all 23 of us, plus the back-room staff, the manager, everybody was involved, and it was just special.”
For Meyler, that moment against Italy was similar to what he imagines it would have been like to play under the late Jack Charlton in the successful years of 1988 and 1990.
“If you look back at some of the great results from some of the teams under Jack Charlton, Italia ’90 or EURO’88, to be a part of such an iconic moment when Robbie Brady scored, that was huge,” Meyler said.
“Obviously I wasn’t born in ’88, so I’ve seen highlights as I got older, but back then they were huge moments in Irish sport.
Ireland had a difficult route to qualify for EURO2016, as they came up against Germany twice in the qualifying stage.
“We always knew we could pull out a performance and get a result, if you look back at when we went to Germany away, we drew one-all,” Meyler said.
“Germany dominated the game, but we stayed in it and kept fighting, and John O’Shea scored in the last few minutes of his 100th cap.
“Then if you look at the return leg back in the Aviva, we needed another result, and then Shane Long pops up and scores a goal and we beat Germany 1-0.”
Meyler’s biggest honours
The ability to play not only for his country but in the Premier League has always been special for Meyler.
It was made all the more special when he was named captain for the first time in 2014 against the USA.
“I was a young boy from Cork with dreams of playing in the Premier League, and to play for his country,” Meyler said.
“So then to go on and play in the Premier League and represent Ireland, not only to represent Ireland but to be given the opportunity to captain Ireland.
“[Even though my son is only 17 months old] I am desperate for him to play football so that he can have the highs that I had through sport, whether it be football or a different sport.
“I made my family proud, my wife proud, everyone that I knew. Those are the big things that will be with you for the rest of your life.”
The future of Irish football
Looking ahead to the Stephen Kenny era of Irish football, Meyler is confident in the new manager and his young team.
“Stephen has obviously come in and he’s trying to transform the style in which Irish football has been for the last 15 years or whatever, and he’s trying to put his stamp on the team,” he said.
“I felt a bit for him because he came in and he’s only got about three or four training sessions to get all of his messages across.
“I think there were some great signs of what they were working on in training throughout the games.”
ROI drew 1-1 to Bulgaria in Kenny’s first match in charge and fell 1-0 to Finland the week later.
Despite the results, Meyler has seen enough in the young side to give him the belief that Ireland will overcome Slovakia and eventually qualify for EURO2020.
“I think going into the Slovakia game, they’ve come off the base of the last two games where now people are really understanding what Stephen is talking about and what he wants from all of his players,” Meyler said.
“They should have beaten Bulgaria comfortably, they had enough chances, even against Finland, they had good chances.
“Going into Slovakia there are a lot of positives, in the sense that the lads now have two games under their belt with Stephen.
“Ireland have always been capable of producing the performance and getting the result, and I believe against Slovakia they will.”
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