Damien Duff admitted it was "about time" the Republic of Ireland booked their place in the finals of a major tournament after tonight's 1-1 draw with Estonia sealed Giovanni Trapattoni's men their berth at Euro 2012.
Estonia skipper Konstantin Vassiljev's strike denied the Republic victory in their play-off second leg but few at the Aviva Stadium would have had any complaints as the home side wrapped up a 5-1 aggregate win.
Stephen Ward had earlier set the hosts on their way with a close-range 31st-minute finish, and Fulham midfielder Duff felt the achievement was long overdue.
"It's an amazing feeling - it's probably even better than [reaching the World Cup in] 2002 because time is running out for a few of us, so I suppose you appreciate it more now," Duff told RTÉ's Tony O'Donoghue.
"It's brilliant and it's about time - 25 years since we've been to the Euros and 10 since we got to a major tournament."
Goalkeeper Shay Given, who was at fault for Estonia's only goal over the two legs, added: "It's a historic moment. It's been a long 16 months but we're extremely happy obviously. We deserved it and we'll celebrate tonight for sure."
The Aston Villa goalkeeper admitted it was a strange night given his side's huge advantage from the first leg.
"It was a little bit, and for the crowd, because we were four goals ahead from the first leg and then five in the first half," he said.
"But we're just going to enjoy the atmosphere now. I think the lads deserve it, it's been a long road, and we'll look forward to next summer."
Striker Robbie Keane, whose two goals in the first leg helped to put the tie beyond the Estonians, added that it was an special moment to seal qualification in Dublin.
"Look at the crowd here - I think that says it all," said Keane before jubilant scenes in the stands. It's a great night for everyone - the fans, the players - it's a night that we'll never forget.
"Full credit to everyone who's involved in the squad. This is why we play football, for situations like this."
Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne said sealing qualification to the finals in Poland and Ukraine ranked as his finest moment in the game.
"It's the best experience I've probably had in football," he said.
"We've walked around Lansdowne Road a few times with nothing to show for it at the end of campaigns, so to qualify here I think is special for everyone.
"Everybody wants to play in a major tournament and now to have the opportunity is going to be great, but I think for everyone in the squad it's about enjoying tonight and enjoying the qualification."
Goalscorer Ward added: "It's a great night. We're disappointed not to win the game but if you told us we'd have won 5-1 and qualified...
"It's a dream come true and we're absolutely delighted."
Trapattoni was disappointed not to be able to produce a win in front of the home fans, but was not surprised to encounter an Estonia side much improved from their first-leg drubbing.
"The second game is always difficult because this team was humiliated at home, and I said to the players 'be careful, because these are not like the ones we met in Estonia'," he said.
"Qualifying [for the European Championships] after 25 years is like a big trophy. For me, for us, for all of the FAI, we are proud about our jobs."