There was only one man everyone wanted to see at the Aviva Stadium last night and, ultimately, only one man everyone wanted to talk to: James McClean.
Not unsurprisingly though, the winger struggled to put his first Irish cap into anything other than exclamations of joy.
“Goosebumps. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Over the moon.”
Of course, as well as all the cheers, McClean also had to put up with the jibes of his team-mates.
“Shane Duffy was joking with me, saying I was begging to come on. A bit of friendly banter. I grew up as a fan and the reception I got was a dream.
“Of course I wanted to get on. [Alan Kelly] was just telling me to go on and play my own game. Get your name in lights and go on there.
“It’s great to make my debut and push on and get more caps but my main focus is to do well with Sunderland for that to happen. I’m enjoying my football at the moment.”
Damien Duff could only concur.
“He is having an exciting season at Premiership level so people wanted to see him pull on the shirt tonight. Hopefully he’ll make the squad for the summer.”
Duff, however, was less impressed with the team’s overall display.
“I don’t think we played particularly well. Probably made them look better than they are as well. Obviously we’ll improve a lot for the summer. The three teams in our group are tougher opposition as well.”
Most worryingly on the night, Ireland struggled against exactly the kind of passing football their Euro 2012 group opponents specialise in.
“It will happen a lot in the summer. Obviously, we’re playing Spain, world and European champions, Italy and Croatia. Three of the best teams in Europe so they are going to have a lot of the ball so we’re going to have to keep a good shape about us that tonight we didn’t.
“Spain pull and drag you all over the pitch. We’re going to have to work as hard as ever, and against the other two. Hopefully we get out of the group and then it is whoever we get.
“We were a bit flat tonight but we’ll be long enough together in the summer so plenty of time to work on things then.”
Despite his graciousness before the game, Petr Cech wasn’t so impressed with Ireland as he lamented the late strike that cost his team victory.
“It was disappointing to lose the goal so late,” said the Chelsea goalkeeper, “They only got back into the game towards the end when it was a bit of a scramble and, for the most part, we were able to keep them at a distance.”
Ultimately though, they couldn’t control McClean’s sense of joy: the one uplifting note on an odd night for Ireland.
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