Veteran Duff celebrates as Ireland end 10-year wait for tournament football

REP OF IRELAND 1 vs ESTONIA 1
(REP OF IRELAND WIN 5-1 ON AGGREGATE)

REPUBLIC of Ireland stalwart Damien Duff hailed last night’s qualification for Euro 2012 as one of the finest accomplishments of his career.

Leading 4-0 from the first leg in Tallinn, Stephen Ward’s 34th minute goal eliminated any lingering doubts over the tie’s outcome. And although Konstantin Vassiljev’s ensured the second leg ended all square, it hardly dampened the party atmosphere inside Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Duff was just 23 when he represented Ireland at the 2002 World Cup – their last major tournament – and the Fulham winger admitted he feared he would never represent his country on the grandest stage again.

He said: “It’s probably even better than [reaching the World Cup in] 2002 because time is running out for a few of us, so I suppose you appreciate it more now.”

EURO 2012 | FINAL LINE-UP

Top seeds: 
Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Holland

Second seeds:
Germany, Italy, England, Russia

Third seeds:
Croatia, Greece, Sweden, Denmark

Fourth seeds:
Ireland, Czech Republic, France, Portugal

* The draw takes place on 2 December. One team will be selected from each pot.