Trap's troops lifting Irish nation

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI

It seems as though the luck of the Irish may have returned.

Last week, the country's Department of Finance learned that the cash-strapped nation was actually 3.6bn euros better off after discovering an accounting error.

And the country's downtrodden economy will be further boosted by the feelgood factor engendered by the Republic's football team qualifying for Euro 2012.

Granted, there is still a second leg to be played at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday but Giovanni Trapattoni is far too wily a fox to allow his team to squander an astonishing 4-0 advantage from Friday's first leg in Tallinn.

In truth, no pundit saw Friday's events coming as the team lined up the country's first qualification for a European Championship finals since the memorable debut appearance in Germany 23 years ago.

The prevailing wisdom was that the ultra-cautious Trapattoni would tell his players to keep it tight in Tallinn and hope to nick an away goal.

Nobody dared to suggest that the tie would be effectively over heading into the second leg.

But the Republic got every possible slice of luck at the A Le Coq Arena and they took full advantage against a home side that totally imploded as they had a player sent off in each half.

Trapattoni's gamble of playing the powerful Stoke striker Jonathan Walters as opposed to the unlucky Simon Cox proved a masterstroke.

Walters' physical presence and ability to hold the ball up helped the Irish to make a purposeful start, which was rewarded by Keith Andrews' perfectly guided 13th-minute header past Sergei Pareiko.

As is customary when Trapattoni's Irish take the lead in games, they went into their shell after getting the early goal and Estonia produced the more fluent football for the remainder of the first half - even after Andrei Stepanov's 35th-minute sending off.

It was more of the same in the third quarter, and at stages in the 20 minutes after half-time one wondered whether it was the Estonians who had the man advantage.

But the decisive moment of the game, and surely the tie, came in the 67th minute when Walters headed Robbie Keane's looping cross over the line in the Republic's first serious attack of the second half.

The second goal totally deflated the Estonians and their disintegration was complete as Keane's two late goals - one from the penalty spot - were split by captain Raio Piiroja's dismissal.

Qualification for Euro 2012 surely means that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) will offer Trapattoni at least a two-year extension although likely horse-trading over the salary figure means that it cannot be absolutely certain that the 72-year-old will still be in charge for the next World Cup qualifiers.

The FAI never publicly confirmed the Italian's salary but he is understood to have been earning in the region of 1.7m euros a year.

However, the economic climate has dipped massively in Ireland since Trapattoni's appointment in early 2008 and the FAI - despite the minimum 8m euros cash windfall that Euro 2012 will bring - will be certain to ask the manager to take a significant pay cut.

What's more, a significant portion of Trapattoni's salary was paid by Denis O'Brien and there is no guarantee that the businessman will be prepared to stump up such cash again.

But Trapattoni has made no secret of the fact that he wants to stay on and his emotion in the interview mixed zone after the game on Friday night - when he appeared to be on the verge of tears - will have gone down well with the Irish public.

While the Italian's negotiating hand has been strengthened, it will be a surprise if he is not able to agree terms with FAI chief executive John Delaney.