The Alternative Euro 2016 Qualification Awards

The Alternative Euro 2016 Qualification Awards
By Jeremy Fullam Updated

What a memorable qualifying campaign that was! From the lows of losing to Scotland and Poland to the highs of beating Germany, Georgia away and finally Bosnia.

There were plenty of heroes and villains along the away as well as a fair share of memorable moments, so we felt it would only be right to conduct our very own Group D awards ceremony to celebrate one of Ireland's most memorable qualifying campaigns to date.

Best Referee- Björn Kuipers

As much as this man is welcome in Ireland at any time we also strongly advise him to stay as far away from Bosnia as physically possible.

The Dutch referee was the man in the middle last night and he gave Ireland a helping hand, quite literally, in the 24th minute when he awarded us a penalty for a very soft handball. To be fair to him, we don't actually want to thank him considering that would suggest there was something untoward, so we'll thank him in spirit.

Every Irish fan will justify the decision saying it's retribution for the Henry fiasco in 2009 but that had nothing to do with Bosnia and they'll be feeling pretty pissed off themselves at the decision.

Anyway we're not ones to complain with a slice of good fortune, and it feels damn good to be on the receiving end of a hand ball decision in a major play off.

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Congratulations Björn.

Best German-Thomas Muller

The German superstar may have thrown his toys out of the pram following Ireland's 1-0 win at the Aviva but that still doesn't diminish his contribution to our success in the group.

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The striker had already scored twice for Germany in Dortmund to ensure the World Cup winners squeezed past Scotland 2-1 but he saved his best for the return leg in Hampden Park.

Muller seemed to be the only one who cared that night as he twice fired Germany into the lead only for Scotland to peg them back, twice. Desperate to see us progress, Muller then provided a sumptuous assist for Ilkay Gundogan to make sure the Germans left Scotland with all three points.

We already declared our gratification to Muller with this letter, and even though he may not like us very much, we certainly like him for everything he's done for us over the past year.

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Congratulations Thomas.

Best Georgian-Valeri Kazaishvili

If this man ever comes to Ireland he'll never have to put his hand in his pocket, in fact just give him a key to the city already, and citizenship too.

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Kazaishvili's goal against Scotland in September put us back on track for qualification after two poor results against Scotland had derailed our campaign.

Scotland went into the game high on confidence and knew a good result would put pressure on Germany and Poland later that evening, their position was so good they weren't even concerned about us behind them, they were focussed on that illustrious top two finish.

Georgia on the other hand went into the match on the back of three straight defeats and were massive underdogs, but nobody handed them a script.

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They turned the entire campaign on it's head in the 38th minute when Valeri Kazaishvili fired in a tidy half volley to give his side, and ours, an unexpected victory.

Congratulations Valeri.

Worst Goal - Jordan Perez

Gibraltar goalkeeper Jordan Perez may have conceded 56 goals throughout the qualification campaign but he can take solace in receiving the award for the best goal scored during our route to Euro 2016.

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As the Irish team broke up the field James McCarthy slid Robbie Keane through on goal, the skipper then attempted a cheeky chip which was excellently rebuffed by Perez in goal.

Wes Hoolahan followed up the rebound but his effort was cleared by two Gibraltar defenders before the ball found its way back to the feet of Perez.

Frustrated at seeing us miss two easy chances, the Gibraltar stopper took matters into his own hands and showed us how its done by coolly placing a first time shot into the roof of the net.

Congratulations Jordan.

Best Weather-The Fog

Let's be honest, not many of us gave ourselves much of a hope heading into the first leg in Zenica on Friday night. Bosnia had two stand out stars in Pjanic and Dzeko and their side seemed to contain much more quality on paper in the likes of Chelsea's Asmir Begovic and  Sampdoria's Ervin Zukanović.

We also went into the game bereft of three guaranteed starters in Long, O'Shea and Walters and we were just hoping to leave the stadium with something to play for.

We ended up leaving Zenica that night in the driving seat thanks to Robbie Brady's goal, but also thanks to a helping hand from Mother Nature.

Following a cagey first half most Irish fans were happy to see us go in 0-0 at the break. We were much better in the second half, or at least that's what we like to think, because in truth no one had a clue what was going on.

Although the fog affected both sides equally it was handy to have it affect Bosnia at home, in a stadium they describe as "Hell". There's absolutely no doubt the fog killed the hostile atmosphere that they were trying to create. Bosnian fans would have you believe that Irish people are blessed with fogproof eyes too which saw us over the line that night.

Never again will I have a reason to complain when I'm forced to drive through heavy fog, instead I'll make use of my fogpoof Irish eyes and rejoice in the memory of that hazey night in Zenica.

Congratulations fog.

Most Suprisingly Not Awful Injury- Shay Given

We're never ones to be celebrating injuries, especially when they're to one of the most decorated players in Irish history, however Given's injury against Germany opened the door for one of Ireland's newest heroes, Darren Randolph.

The West Ham keeper seized his opportunity with both hands and looked safe as houses against Germany. If that wasn't enough he also provided the assist to one of the most famous goals in Irish history.

He proved the performances were no fluke against Bosnia both home and away where he looked even safer than he had previously.

He's now surely the undisputed choice to be Ireland's stopper next summer.

We don't want to say congratulations Shay, so instead, congratulations Darren.

Best Commentary- George Hamilton

George Hamilton was always going to be a contender for best commentary, there was a flood of great international commentary to Shane Long's goal against Germany which were also contenders, but Hamilton stayed true to form and pulled the cat out of the bag last Friday in Zenica.

Hamilton and Jim Beglin did a fantastic job providing commentary during the match as their view would have been as vague as ours and it showed when we eventually took the lead late on.

Nobody really had a clue what was going in the build up and Hamilton seemed to assume that we were in the midst of building an attack.

His hunch was right but he was clearly unable to see much else as it took him a the guts of five seconds to actually react to Brady's goal.

Credit is due to Jim Beglin who realised we'd taken the lead ahead of Hamilton but Hamilton's shock reaction takes the award.

Congratulations George.

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