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O'Neill on Ireland players: 'I've never been prouder'

An emotional Martin O'Neill proclaimed it his proudest night as a coach after the Republic of Ireland dramatically sealed qualification while scorer Robbie Brady was still stunned by his late winner.

Martin O'Neill hailed many of his players who have 'come of age' in France
Martin O'Neill hailed many of his players who have 'come of age' in France ©Getty Images

Martin O'Neill, Republic of Ireland manager
I've never been prouder of a group of players. This was very special. We had enormous support from the stands and they kept us going and I think the fans and players fed off each other.

I got a bit emotional at the end. We won the game, we deserved to win and we played some phenomenal stuff. Obviously there's a great spirit among the players but spirit alone won't win games. You need some ability as well, and we have that, but some players have come of age at this tournament. We've had some late goals over the last two years and seriously, when you do it so often, it can't be a coincidence.

I remember when the draw was made – you cursed your luck for a while and then got on with it. Knowing we had to win a game at some stage, they came up really big tonight, really big. And obviously I'm delighted.

We had to have everyone at it tonight, to not drop tempo. The younger players came through tonight – you would have thought Duffy would have been playing his 35th international – but so did the whole team and every one of them was fantastic.