Seamus Coleman's "inspirational" speech helped Ireland to secure a famous victory over Italy

The Everton fullback captained the national side last night

Seamus Coleman's "inspirational" speech helped Ireland to secure a famous victory over Italy

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

It's widely known that Ireland have on average the oldest squad out of all the teams at these European Championships.

While that may look like a disadvantage at times, the vast experience within the squad is something which can be drawn upon and there is never any shortage of leaders in the dressing room.

That said, Ireland found a leader last night in a place not many would consider to look.

Seamus Coleman was handed the honour of captaining his country on such a big occasion and it's clear he took the role seriously.

"He’s an impressive, young man," O’Neill told reporters today. "He’s a very quiet, young man, but he’s shown a great intensity in this competition. He’s ready for it.

"He embraced the captaincy, took it in his stride. I thought he was a captain in everything he did. A couple of players mentioned that he was inspirational in his little speech to the players, which was great."

The passion exhibited by the team was something which was evident from the get-go when Coleman himself committed to a heavy challenge. Assistant boss Roy Keane had asked for players to stand up and show "courage" and "balls" ahead of the game and the Donegal native showed that last night.

"We needed to seal that performance last night with a win because I don’t think we wanted to go home feeling, it was a great performance, but should have had a penalty but didn’t, Wes should have scored but didn’t, and do you know what? In two days’ time, it’s forgotten (if Ireland hadn’t won).

"We’ve come up big at the end of the game and deservedly so, but for that to mean that we have qualified and gone through, it was just immense in that sense, so at least we will take great pride in that."