EURO 2016: Martin O'Neill urges players to draw inspiration from past glories
Martin O'Neill has told his players to draw inspiration from their giant-killing of world champions Germany as they attempt to keep their Euro 2016 hopes alive.
The Republic of Ireland face a date with destiny in Lille on Wednesday evening when only victory over European aristocrats Italy, who have already clinched top spot in Group E with a game to spare, will give them any chance of making the last 16.
Coach Antonio Conte is being tipped to rest as many as nine of his senior men for what is effectively a dead rubber for the Italians, but it will still take a monumental effort by Ireland to emerge with the three points, just as they famously did against the same opposition at the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States.
However, it will not be that afternoon at the Giants Stadium which manager O’Neill will call to mind as he rallies his troops, but a glorious October night in Dublin when Shane Long blasted the nation back into the race for qualification with a shock 1-0 win over reigning world champions Germany.
The 64-year-old, who was joined by full-back Seamus Coleman at his press conference at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, said: “For players of Seamus’ age, it  seems a long time ago.
“We have got our own recent memories ourselves to inspire us, no more so than the night in October time when we beat the world champions.
“When you say it like that there, it just seems to disappear into the ether, but we beat the world champions on a night when we had to win and that’s extraordinary, an extraordinary result.
“They weren’t a normal side, they were the team that just 18 months earlier or whatever it was had gone to Brazil and won the World Cup, so that was a great moment for us.
“That was inspirational enough for us to go and beat Bosnia over the two games in the play-off match. I think that’s where we drew the inspiration from.
“We don’t have to go back to ‘94, we can just draw on that because it’s the set of players that did it and it’s that set of players that gave us the opportunity to come here.
“As much as we have enjoyed the days that we have been here, we’d like to stay a little but longer, so that inspiration will come from that evening against Germany and the night against Bosnia.”
Coleman, now 27, was just five years old the day Ray Houghton wrote himself into Ireland’s football folklore with the winner in New Jersey, and while he has heard the stories and seen the footage since, he too cast his mind back just a few months in the search for motivation.
The Everton defender said: “We don’t have to look too far back. That night in Dublin, Shane Long’s goal, it was a memorable night for us all.
“We know that when it all clicks for and we stick together for the 90 minutes and we don’t lose concentration that we are capable of beating big teams.
“I do genuinely believes that there’s a big result left in us in this group.”
Another victory over the Italians in Lille, where three games already in the tournament and heavy rain in recent days have taken a heavy toll on the pitch, would create a new set of Irish heroes.
Coleman said: “You look back over the years and you have seen players making names for themselves, making themselves heroes amongst the Irish fans and it’s obviously something that you dream about..
“But that’s the end-game. Hopefully that will be the case.”