The agony and ecstasy riff is a familiar one in sport but rarely can it have had a more literal application than to the bittersweet situation in which Alan Judge found himself at the conclusion of Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Denmark in Copenhagen in June.
While Mick McCarthy is always prepared to cut a little slack for a couple of his more experienced and established names, the manager has never sought to minimise the weight he attaches to the general requirement that, in order to play for their country, his players really need to be playing for their clubs.
Wednesday evening had been intended as Cinema Evening, a new picture house having opened around the corner and being in need of investigation and appraisal. Given my enduring weakness for high-school movies there was only going to be one winner: Booksmart, in which two clever students realise on the eve of graduation that they should have worked less and played more, upon which they hit the town and attempt to cram four years of lost fun into one night.
Mick and Seamus had done their bit to temper the giddiness. Coach and captain had held up Ireland’s struggles against Gibraltar two months ago as reason for caution ahead of this latest European qualifier, but there was always the sense that the audience were nodding heads out of respect rather than agreement.