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.
It’s not often that the great minds of the Irish management team and the Irish media think alike but such was the case this week when we asked Roy Keane for his thoughts on how Shane Duffy has progressed to the point where he is now widely regarded as the rock of the Irish defence and one of the most consistent centre-halves in the Premier League.
Forget weary Wembley’s limp and half-hearted response to England’s recent qualification for Russia, forget those cynics who say international football doesn’t matter - anyone wanting to get a real flavour of what the World Cup really means should take a look at what happened on an historic night in Cardiff.
“We have to win the games and the equation is really simple,” was Martin O’Neill’s decisive summation yesterday, as he contemplated Ireland’s World Cup qualifying landscape with two group games to go.
He’s been described as many things during this changeable World Cup campaign but ‘Mystical Martin O’Neill’ could be one label Ireland’s manager is content with as he predicted this strange predicament facing his team in next month’s concluding qualifiers.
At the Irish team’s hotel in Castleknock yesterday, a few of the senior players told Martin O’Neill about how much of a challenge they think Saturday’s World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi is going to be — and the manager was delighted to hear of their concern.
While Darren Randolph was earning plaudits for his role in helping Middlesbrough keep a clean sheet against Preston – including one fine save to deny ex-Cork City man Sean Maguire – his Ireland understudy Keiren Westwood was having a much less happy time of it in the Championship on Saturday.
Jeff Hendrick’s journey from fringe squad member to cog in the Irish midfield was all but completed at last summer’s European Championships in France but the Burnley player couldn’t help but baulk yesterday at the suggestion that he is some sort of ‘senior’ pro now.