Burnley's Wayne Hennessey lives out his dreams with Wales' World Cup qualification
“This is what dreams are made of,” insisted Burnley keeper Wayne Hennessey, after helping Wales to their first World Cup Finals in 64 years.
And the 35-year-old believes reaching Qatar 2022 tops qualifying for two European Championships in the last six years.
Hennessey was part of Wales’ Euro 2016 and 2020 squads, helping the Dragons into the semi-finals of the former tournament in France.
But the 102-cap keeper produced his best performance for his country to defy Ukraine in Sunday’s 1-0 play-off final victory in Cardiff.
Hennessey made nine saves as Ukraine had the most shots by a team without scoring during the entire 2022 European World Cup qualifying campaign.
“These are what dreams are made of, this is the top,” said Hennessey.
“It was the best game I’ve played in a Wales shirt. So what a time to do it and, yeah, we’re going to a World Cup.
“As a boy growing up you watch all the Wales games and we never used to get to major tournaments. So to go to the World Cup is unbelievable.
“A lot of youngsters have come in, they’ve really gelled, and it’s an exciting time for Wales and to be a supporter.”
Hennessey won his 102nd cap against Ukraine, but his selection was not straightforward.
He spent Euro 2020 understudying Leicester’s Danny Ward after injury, and made only three appearances for Burnley last season, with England goalkeeper Nick Pope very much the number one at Turf Moor.
Ward missed the semi-final play-off win over Austria in March following knee surgery, and Wales boss Robert Page stuck with Hennessey for the Ukraine decider.
Page said: “It (my decision) didn’t needed justifying. But I pulled Wardy before and explained that I was going with Wayne.
“He understood it and said it was not a problem.
“I was loyal to Wayne after what he did in the semi-finals, and he absolutely paid me back with that performance.
“Gareth (Bale) said it was the best performance he’d ever seen from a goalkeeper, and I would echo that sentiment.”