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Sunday, 16 June, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Ireland's glorious exit
Republic players will be upset but can be proud of their efforts.
Robbie Keane and Matt Holland are dejected
BBC Sport Online's Lyle Jackson

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It was 2.00am in Seoul and a group of 100 or so Irish fans were waiting at the door of the Westin Chosun Hotel.

Waiting for the Republic of Ireland players to return from a dramatic penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain.

They were determined to give the team one last gesture of support, to acclaim a superb performance which came so close to achieving a place in the quarter-finals.

It is difficult to encapsulate the mood in the Irish camp, such are the competing emotions.

There is crushing disappointment. The in-word for it is 'gutted' but that falls short of the mark.

However, there is also pride in the way the Republic have performed in this tournament.

They more than matched African champions Cameroon in the opening game, and did the same against Germany, battling from behind on both occasions.

That laid the foundation for qualification which was sealed by a 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

And so to Spain in Suwon on Sunday night.

Thousands of Irish fans had made the trip again and they were to witness the cruellest of endings for their heroes in green.

Newcastle United keeper Shay Given had a great World Cup.
Given could only save one penalty

But Mick McCarthy's Republic make their exit from the 2002 World Cup with heads held high.

They were magnificent and, almost, almost, snatched their greatest victory of all.

Losing on penalties was heartbreak, not least for goalkeeper Shay Given.

Earlier in the week, he had recalled diving about his back garden as a 14-year-old, pretending to be goalkeeper Packie Bonner, Ireland's famous sudden-death hero in Italia '90.

That boyhood dream came so close to reality.

The Newcastle United keeper did save one of the Spain's five attempts.

But the Irish scored just two of their five and that, sadly, was that.

This was pure sporting theatre. Drama you just could not script.

The great 2002 World Cup adventure is over for the Irish, but it has been a memorable one.

McCarthy's critics, and there still are some despite this creditable showing, may talk about how much Ireland missed Roy Keane.

But that seems a pointless argument now.

Niall Quinn has played his last match for the Republic of Ireland.
McCarthy embraces Quinn

In current circumstances, the Republic are in a post-Roy Keane era as they now turn their thoughts to the qualifying campaign for the 2004 European Championships.

If the Manchester United midfielder makes his peace with the Irish manager, all well and good.

If not, the Republic have youth waiting in the wings.

With Steve Staunton and Niall Quinn now taking their bow from the international arena, it is time for more new blood.

Players like Stephen Reid, Clinton Morrison and Colin Healy are poised to come in, so the optimistic Quinn can justifiably talk about greater things ahead.

Not failed

The Ireland of the future, said the Sunderland striker, would no longer be satisfied with qualifying for finals.

They will want to be regarded as potential winners.

The Football Association of Ireland have backed McCarthy to the hilt over the Keane saga and officials have said they would like to see him stay at the helm for the next World Cup in Germany.

However, the manager has stated his intention to leave the job if he fails to get Ireland to Euro 2004 in Portugal.

He certainly has not failed at this World Cup.


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