James McCarthy superb for Ireland in valiant defeat vs. France in round of 16

In the end, it was a very Irish exit to a very Irish tournament that offered up all sorts. In terms of the game, the easiest barometer is a scan through the clubs of the players for that shows what should be the difference. But it wasn't.

France got a fright. Martin O'Neill's side fought. And like so many tournaments before the nation was left with heads held high in defeat. Is that a defeatist attitude? We'll never know as it's lost amid the immediate joy that's been given. A remarkable run and it wasn't all that far from continuing.

Nobody would have said that at the start.

Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Darren Randolph, 8 -- A game that surmised a tournament he can scarcely have imagined being a part of before injuries threw him the number one jersey. Wasn't given the chance of a showcase save but couldn't have done a whole lot for either goal. Assured, solid and that's all Ireland could have asked for coming here.

DF Seamus Coleman, 7 -- It took a few games before he grew into a senior leader in a side that presumed he'd be just that given his status and career to date. Oddly, perhaps his best game at the Euros was saved for the day his side exited but he needs consistency, especially in a side so inconsistent.

DF Shane Duffy, 6 -- So much effort, energy and drive in the space of five days. From the bench beforehand to the rock against Italy, he carried it forth into this game. Finally though, fatigue set in among those around him and he doesn't have the pace to cover at the best of times. An end not befitting of his growth. A future leader for Martin O'Neill.

DF Richie Keogh, 6 -- To rate his performance, you'd nearly need him marking you, so silent is his upside. Solid and dependable against a much higher calibre of player than he's used to picking up, went about his work in a way you wouldn't notice. At the back that's the sign of a job done.

DF Stephen Ward, 7 -- Ireland shouldn't have had a chance at this tournament. In fact, even in the expanded version they were a weak team heading in. But Ward epitomised the ideal of rising above yourself and the concept of unity and passion making a difference in international football. Perhaps his best every day playing for his country and given the team's performance, you know it will mean a lot.

MF Robbie Brady, 7 -- The face on an heroic campaign wouldn't leave it at Italy. Looked like a seasoned campaigner burdening responsibility in set-piece play all tournament, and nailed the penalty here as if it were a given. Deserves a serious summer move after a summer he'll never forget.

MF Jeff Hendrick, 6 -- It's over but he can't be the past, rather his attitude and skill-set must be the fulcrum of the national team's future. This typified his tournament, a Derby player against Europe's finest but he matched them for energy and drive and wasn't that far back in other departments. Granted, he faded towards the finish.

MF James McCarthy, 8 -- Finally, some consistency of the good variety. Much like Germany in qualifying, the fear was the Italy game would pockmark a spell of performances that weren't befitting of his talent. But here he was hungry, energetic, focused and disrupting a world-class team. You can't ask for more.

MF James McClean, 7 -- Some focus merely on results, but here was another who put in one of his best performances for Ireland in defeat. Granted, as always his effort thumped against his own glass ceiling and he should have done better when squaring a second-half chance.

FW Daryl Murphy, 7 -- Still no goal for Ireland, but looking back at the past three hours, does it matter? Played so far above his presumed level, a leader in the forward line, and symptomatic of why Ireland came so amazingly close.

FW Shane Long, 6 -- A lot like the dilemma around his entire tournament. Was he in a thankless role with no support or could he have done more with support? A combination, perhaps, as he won the penalty yet looked a little lost at times. Too hot coming in, too cold once in? It's another debate.


FW Jon Walters, 5 -- Reminded us of why one of the most important players in qualifiers being injured was such a disappointment. Not one of the biggest names at the Euros, but definitely one of the biggest losses.

DF John O'Shea, 5 -- Introduced for stability but the game was already up.MF Wes Hoolahan, N/A -- Too late to be the impact sub he was against Italy.