Manager Giovanni Trapattoni praised the resilience of his Republic of Ireland team after seeing them secure their place at the Euro 2012 finals.
Last night's 1-1 play-off second leg draw with Estonia in Dublin completed a 5-1 aggregate victory and ensured they will be playing in Poland and the Ukraine next summer.
The triumph, which was greeted with delirious celebrations by a crowd of 51,151 at the Aviva Stadium, came just a few days short of two years since their controversial World Cup exit at the hands of France.
Trapattoni said: "I am very, very proud for many reasons. We came here with an important objective.
"We have started the last campaign in a difficult group with Italy and then we had France, and we could have achieved qualification.
"But we started again and we have discovered new important options in terms of players. They have shown how important they have been for us.
"We have improved our quality, like against Russia. We have started again with new mentality and the players believe in our system."
Qualification instantly installed the 72-year-old Italian as a new Irish hero as the nation prepared to decamp en masse to Poland and the Ukraine.
Asked if he understood the importance of what he had achieved to the country, Trapattoni said: "I like the Irish people. I live in a little village and it is like Ireland.
"For me, it is like my life in Italy. For this reason, I am proud. I understand what the Irish people wish for and for this reason, I am very, very happy."
Ireland went into the game having all but secured their passage in Tallinn on Friday night, but skipper Robbie Keane passed up two early opportunities to extend the 4-0 lead with which they returned.
However, full-back Stephen Ward reminded him how to do it 14 minutes before the break.
Keeper Pavel Londak could only parry Kevin Doyle's header and the Wolves defender was on home to smash the loose ball into the back of the net to start the party in earnest.
But the bumper crowd saw Estonia respond and get their reward 12 minutes after the restart when Shay Given was beaten by Konstantin Vassiljev's viciously swerving 30-yard drive.
The visitors finished strongly as they looked to gain revenge for defeat on their own pitch, but could not force a late breakthrough.
Estonia boss Tarmo Ruutli, who had admitted after the first leg that the tie was all but over, was happy with the way his players restored a little pride.
He said: "Everybody knew that what we did on Friday was an accident, and we just had to prove that we had more qualities and could play at a higher level.
"I think we did that tonight."