Belfast Telegraph

There's no better feeling, says Republic of Ireland's World Cup hero James McClean

By Gareth Hanna

Republic of Ireland hero James McClean is on top of the world after netting the goal that took his side into the World Cup play-offs.

Wales dominated possession in large swathes of the winner-takes-all clash but it wasn't to matter when McClean smashed home a 57th minute winner from a Jeff Hendrick coss.

It was enough to secure the win Ireland needed to reach the play-offs. Along with Northern Ireland, they will be unseeded.

"Unbelievable, even hearing the fans out there in full voice," McClean reacted when speaking to Sky Sports. "There's no better feeling. It's class.

"A lot of people wrote us off and didn't give us a chance tonight. We showed our character and our quality and we'll enjoy this now.

"It was a great dummy for Harry (Arter). Whether or not he knew I was behind him, only he will know. As it was coming, I thought keep it down and that feeling when it hit the back of the net, there's no better feeling on a football pitch."

McClean, however, did warn that the job is far from finished.

He said: "We're not there yet. It means nothing if we don't qualify now. We'll enjoy tonight and we'll look forward to whoever we get."

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, meanwhile, echoed every RoI fan's feelings on the closing stages of the match.

"The last half hour seemed an eternity," he smiled on Sky Sports. "We had to withstand pressure as you expect but we knew at some stage we had to win the match, and we did it.

"So proud of the players. They were magnificent, playing away from home against a very strong Welsh side. For us to win on their territory is a great result for us."

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