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Ireland make sure with Estonia draw

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Estonia (agg: 5-1)
Stephen Ward and Konstantin Vassiljev scored but the result was academic as the Irish celebrated their return to the EURO finals after 24 years.

Ireland make sure with Estonia draw
Ireland make sure with Estonia draw ©UEFA.com

Dublin was in full party mode on Tuesday night as the Republic of Ireland celebrated qualification for UEFA EURO 2012 after a 1-1 draw with Estonia.

Ireland's ticket to next summer's tournament had been all but assured following their comprehensive 4-0 win in Friday night's first leg in Tallinn and Stephen Ward extended their lead after 32 minutes. Although Konstantin Vassiljev drew Estonia level on the night in the second half, it mattered little to the raucous capacity crowd.

There was a sense of history in the making on an electric evening as the Irish rubber-stamped their return to Europe's big stage – one they last graced almost a quarter of a century ago with their historic first appearance at the 1988 finals in the former West Germany.

It was Ward's second international goal that got the party started. The opener came after Estonia goalkeeper Pavel Londak failed to hold Kevin Doyle's header from a Damien Duff corner, with Ward firing home from close range. Cue delirium among the home fans who had turned the arena into a sea of green with their replica shirts, flags and balloons.

Estonia, reduced to playing for pride, found a small consolation in the form of a goal by their captain, Vassiljev, who struck with a shot from distance in the 57th minute. It was a rare moment to forget from Ireland keeper Shay Given who seemed to lose the flight of the ball as it soared past his flailing arms and into the net.

It mattered little in the grand scheme of things, though, as the Irish regrouped to see the job through and the shrill pitch of the final whistle sparked a wall of noise off the pitch and scenes of jubilation on it. "Come on you boys in green" was just one of the chants from the crowd who gave Trapattoni and his players a deserved standing ovation.

A decade after their 2002 FIFA World Cup finals appearance, Irish football fans can look forward to seeing their favourites at a major tournament once more.

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