Making just their second appearance at a UEFA European Championship finals, Giovanni Trapattoni's team will need to overcome former winners Spain and Italy to progress from Group C.
When Giovanni Trapattoni took the reins in summer 2008, he assumed control of a side that had not graced a UEFA European Championship in two decades. Their UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying campaign had brought just four wins in 12 outings – including two against San Marino – as Ireland finished well adrift of the Czech Republic and Germany; 'Trap' made an instant impression. He took Ireland to the brink of the 2010 FIFA World Cup before William Gallas's extra-time goal sent France through at their expense. After finishing behind Russia, a 4-0 first-leg victory over Estonia ensured there was no play-off woe this time.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
The Irish suffered only one defeat en route to the play-offs, in which they dismantled Estonia away from home before drawing the home leg.
That reverse came at home against Russia, who outclassed the Irish on their own turf.
Ireland had started their campaign with six points out of six, winning away impressively against an improving Armenia before picking up the mandatory three points against Andorra.
Two wins over Macedonia, and another one each over Andorra and Armenia gave Ireland six wins from 10 matches.
The only downside to the Irish campaign was their failure, again, to defeat a team ranked higher than them in the Fifa rankings.
They drew twice, disappointingly, against Slovakia and were lucky to escape Moscow with a point.
PAST RECORD IN THE EUROS
1960 Did not qualify 1988 Group stage
1964 Did not qualify 1992 Did not qualify
1968 Did not qualify 1996 Did not qualify
1972 Did not qualify 2000 Did not qualify
1976 Did not qualify 2004 Did not qualify
1980 Did not qualify 2008 Did not qualify
1984 Did not qualify 2012 Qualified through play-offs
Only once before have the Irish qualified for the tournament proper. That came in 1988 when Jack Charlton led the team to the finals in West Germany.
There they defeated England, drew with the Soviet Union and lost to the Dutch as they bowed out respectfully at the group stages.
Since then there has been play-off anguish against the Netherlands in 1996 and Turkey in 2000.
The Irish have fared badly in their last two qualification campaigns, finishing low down the pecking order, but have restored some pride with a fine run to these finals.
Overall: P112 W45 D33 L34 F163 A130
Final tournament: P3 W1 D1 L1 F2 A2
Qualifying: P109 W44 D32 L33 F161 A128