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Behind the scenes after Ireland's escape to victory

Our man in the Republic of Ireland camp channels his inner Norman Mailer to describe the sights and sounds in the bowels of the Stade Pierre Mauroy after Wednesday's stunning win.

Behind the scenes after Ireland's escape to victory
Behind the scenes after Ireland's escape to victory ©Getty Images

Glimpses of men in white and then blue, flitting back and forth, are all you can see through the opening at the end of the players' tunnel. With five minutes of the game left, you try to gauge what's happening out on the pitch by the fluctuating noise levels filtering down from the fans above.

"Who scored?" asks one of a dozen anxious reporters as he adjusts his tie in preparation for an imminent interview. "Brady," another voice responds. You go over the questions you would like to ask the night's protagonists. "Was there a moment, Martin, where you thought the opportunity had slipped away?"

Suddenly, camera crews jump into action. The final whistle has sounded outside. Where before people in suits ambled patiently back and forth, they now move about with purpose. The players will be here soon, walking down the tunnel in your direction. A colleague takes your arm and tells you that Robbie Brady has been named Man of the Match and that he will be speaking with us.

Brady 'lost for words'

As you look up from your notes, James McClean walks past, his shirt grass-stained and the veins in his legs pulsing from a long night's effort. James McCarthy follows, high-fiving someone on his way towards the dressing room. The players are streaming in now, one after another. Martin O'Neill appears – jaded but content – and is soon directed towards the outstretched hands of smiling television journalists.

When your turn arrives to speak with the manager, the cameraman grabs you by the shoulder and leads you closer to the side of the lens. There is heat and humidity, the noise and the chatter. Discarded mud from players' boots lies on the floor and the smell of muscle rub is in the air as O'Neill offers you take on Ireland's 1-0 win against Italy.

"It was great; we were roared on by a great crowd. It's just a great evening for us," he says. "We deserved to win. It's come late, but even so, better late than never. We created another chance, and Brady's come in, big time. We're still in the competition, and we're not going home – not by a long shot."

Conte: I got the answers I needed

Seamus Coleman's shorts are rolled up his thighs and his once white jersey bears the grubby stains of a hard-fought battle. Some time has passed since the conclusion of Ireland's victory and passage through to the round of 16, but the skipper's armband is still wrapped tightly around his left bicep. "To captain your country in such a famous win is something I'll always remember and something, I think, the fans are always going to remember as well," he says.

Then it's the turn of the match winner, Brady. He stands before you in disbelief. "The adrenaline has me drained now after the celebrations, but this is what dreams are made of, do you know what I mean?" Making my way out of the tunnel a few minutes later, I think I kind of do.

In case you missed it: Robbie Brady heads in
In case you missed it: Robbie Brady heads in©Getty Images