Will our man shine in France?
Name: Robbie Brady
Nation: Republic of Ireland
Nation: Republic of Ireland
Road to the Euros
Robbie Brady's impact steadily increased as Ireland's qualifying campaign wore on, with the City winger eventually becoming indispensable for Martin O'Neill.
After substitute appearances in their first two Group D wins against Georgia and Gibraltar, Brady was unused as Ireland claimed a last-gasp 1-1 draw with world champions Germany in Gelsenkirchen in October 2014.
A brace in a friendly against the USA a month later earned him his first start of the campaign against Poland, and he kept his place for the 1-1 with Scotland and the 4-0 thumping of Gibraltar.
By this point a Norwich player having completed his transfer from Hull City in July 2015, Brady and Wes Hoolahan each completed 90 minutes as Ireland recorded a famous 1-0 triumph over Germany in Dublin last October, leaving qualification in their own hands.
A defeat away to Poland however, left them facing the nerve-wracking prospect of a play-off - but this was where Brady truly came to the fore.
He found the net for the first time in qualifying, a memorable away goal against opponents Bosnia in the dense fog of Zenica, before shining in the 2-0 home victory that fired his country to the tournament.
Q&A - Daniel McDonnell, Irish Independent Football Correspondent (@McDonnellDan)
Q: How influential was Robbie Brady in Ireland’s qualification for the tournament?
Hugely so. One of the big changes came after four games of the group away to Scotland. Ireland had no competitive game between November and March and, from that point onwards, Martin O'Neill put Brady in the side and he was on the pitch for every remaining fixture. He had some growing pains as he got used to left-back, but he was a big part of the successful autumn.
Q: What qualities does he add to the team?
Set pieces are the first thing that immediately springs to mind because they have become so important to Ireland. Our goals in the 1-1 home draws with Poland and Scotland both came from Brady corner kicks and he teed up the decider in the play-off against Bosnia with a brilliant free kick. In the famous Dublin success against Germany and the away game in Bosnia, he showed his quality through the middle as well.
Q: What kind of impact do you expect him to have in France?
We tend to view Brady as an indicator of what the manager is thinking about the game. If he is selected at left full-back then that's a positive statement as you know he'll be bombing forward and trying to take the game to the opposition. If he is picked in midfield and Stephen Ward comes in at left full-back then the approach might be slightly safer. Either way, he should anticipate starting every game and the aforementioned dead ball prowess makes him one of the main men.
Q: His goal in Bosnia… One of the most memorable recent goals for any Ireland team?
Well, I think circumstances conspired against him there. It was a superb goal but it was barely visible in the stadium, never mind on television, so I think that has probably taken away from the memory. It was a brilliant individual goal but the thick fog that hung over Zenica prevented it from getting the attention it truly deserved. Also, it perhaps suffered by coming a month after Shane Long's winner against Germany - that's the Irish goal of 2015 which will be replayed through the generations. Maybe Brady can deliver 2016's version.
Where and when?
Ireland's opening match is on Monday, June 13 against Martin Olsson's Sweden at the Stade de France in Paris (5pm UK).
Results in further Group E games against Belgium (Saturday, June 18 in Bordeaux) and Italy (Wednesday, June 22 in Lille) will determine whether they progress through to the last 16.