Shane Duffy spoke of his immense pride at captaining the Republic of Ireland on Monday night, but he admitted their failure to get the win that would have sealed qualification for the Euros soured a "special" occasion.

Duffy was a towering presence at the heart of the home defence, wearing the armband in the absence of the suspended Seamus Coleman.

Ireland had to beat Denark in their final Group D to seal a ticket to the finals but Martin Braithwaite’s second-half volley was an almighty kick in the teeth.

Matt Doherty nodded the hosts level but time ran out and a gutsy effort fell short.

Mick McCarthy's men are now heading for the play-off semi-finals in March and Duffy, though downbeat, was keen to take the positives from what was Ireland’s best display of the campaign.

"We try to play like that every game to be honest," said the 27-year-old Derryman.

"It’s easier said than done. We’ve just got to keep everyone fit in March and playing well at club level. That’s the benchmark.

"We’ve got to stay at that level now, passing the ball, playing... doing the basics which we worked on. I thought we pressed them well; they didn’t get their game going really."

The contest was scoreless and seemingly drifting towards a final 15-minute push, with McCarthy unloading his attacking weapons from the bench.

However Braithwaite threw a spanner in the works by capitalising on slack defending in the 73rd minute, with Matt Doherty's equaliser five minutes from the end ultimately proving too little too late.

The night was not without positives. Ireland rallied well after going behind and looked more composed and assured than they have done in two years.

The challenge now, Duffy stressed, is to take those pluses forward.

"Whatever we’ve got to do in March we’ve got to try and do," he said.

"The fans were brilliant tonight. Hopefully they get what they deserve and we can get them there in the summer."

It's something I’ll always be proud to say to my kids

On his captaincy, Duffy concluded: "It was huge. I tried not to think about it. My family were very proud. But I’d swap it all for a win. It was obviously a special night – it just doesn’t feel special at the minute because we didn’t get through.

"It’s something I’ll always be proud to say to my kids."