Irish to end decade-long wait at Euros

The Republic of Ireland have ended ten years of misery by qualifying for Euro 2012 - their first appearance at a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.

Football News: Ireland

But for awhile, it looked like Irish fans were going to be disappointed all over again, after Giovanni Trapattoni's men spent much of their qualifying campaign locked in a three-way battle for top spot with Russia and Slovakia.

However, the Slovaks' late slump saw Russia claim top spot, with Ireland having to settle for a play-off spot, where they then went on to seal their place in the finals after recording a 5-1 aggregate win over Estonia.

Republic of Ireland

World ranking (as of November 2011): 25
Coach: Giovanni Trapattoni

No stranger to international tournaments, having led Italy at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, Trapattoni will be looking to draw on all 36 years of his coaching experience when he leads Ireland in Poland and Ukraine.

Much of the 72-year-old's honours have come whilst in charge of big clubs like Juventus, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, so it will be interesting to see what Trapattoni can achieve coaching a side that will be widely regarded as underdogs.

Can they win it?

Depending on who they are grouped together with, Ireland's chances vary from sneaking into the knockout round, to a likely elimination in the group stages.

Despite the fact that the majority of the Irish side ply their trade in the Barclays Premier League, there is a slight suspicion that they are over-reliant on a number of veterans, who could just be running out of steam by the time the finals come around.

Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Shay Given are all in the twilight of their careers, yet regularly have to play key roles for the Irish.

And while the likes of Stephen Hunt and Kevin Doyle are established Premier League players, they are yet to announce themselves as bonafide internationals, and could find themselves wanting when coming up against Europe's elite.

But despite having to go through the playoffs, Ireland actually had a fairly successful campaign, winning six of their ten qualifiers and losing just once, to Russia back in October.

One player who shone brightly was Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady, who was a huge threat down the left flank and even weighed in with two goals. Once regarded as the next big thing in Irish football during his time with Celtic, the 25-year-old has yet to take Europe by storm, but is capable of cutting any defence to pieces when on form.

Another player who could just be in line to announce himself on the international stage is Everton's Seamus Coleman, who has established himself as one of the Premier League's young stars. Capable of playing both in midfield and defence, the 23-year-old could just be one to watch in Poland and Ukraine.

Having finally made an international tournament after a ten-year absence, there is a feeling that Irish fans are just glad to reclaim their place among Europe's elite. A strong showing next summer, however, will be vital for the next target in sight - a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Best performance at European Championships: Group stage (1988)

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