The Republic of Ireland fell agonisingly short of automatic qualification for Euro 2020 and will have to rely on the play-offs after they drew with Denmark at a raucous Aviva Stadium.
The Irish created plenty of chances with one of their best performances in recent years, but Matt Doherty’s equaliser came too late for the win they needed.
Martin Braithwaite got in behind Doherty to stab home Henrik Dalsgaard’s cross and open the scoring from Denmark’s first shot on target – one of only two they had in the game.
The Irish will rue their finishing, with Conor Hourihane missing a glorious chance in the first half.
Doherty’s header from Enda Stevens’ cross set up a thrilling finale in a deafening atmosphere but they could not create that one last chance they needed.
The Irish players collapsed to the ground at the final whistle, knowing they had given everything – as their fans gave them a standing ovation despite falling just short in the end.
They will have another chance to qualify in the play-offs, with a potential semi-final away to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Wales or Slovakia.
Frustrating night for the Republic
Memories were still fresh of Denmark’s 5-1 demolition of the Irish at this venue back in the 2018 World Cup play-off.
This was nothing like that.
Two years ago Christian Eriksen tore Martin O’Neill’s side to shreds with a hat-trick. But here, Mick McCarthy’s side really had a go, with some quality passing, running and invention.
Had they taken their earlier chances, who knows?
Hourihane should have finished from David McGoldrick’s pass, but shot straight at Kasper Schmeichel.
Then McGoldrick headed down to Alan Browne, whose sweet volley was just wide. The lively McGoldrick had a go himself and shot over from distance.
Ciaran Clark, a half-time substitute for the injured John Egan, also headed a couple of chances over the bar.
One big plus to come from this is renewed optimism for next year’s play-offs.
Recent dire performances against Switzerland and Georgia had removed a lot of confidence, but this showing was something else.
Sadly their play-off is likely to be away from home and their magnificent fans, who cheered their team all the way throughout the game.
The Republic end with only seven goals from eight games – Doherty’s was the fourth header of the campaign.
But if they had played like this before, it would have been a different story entirely.
More to follow.