Sport at the highest level is often as much about anticipation as it is about winning. On that basis then maybe last night’s failure to secure an automatic place at Euro 2020 may not have been as bad as it felt in the Aviva Stadium shortly after 9-30 pm.
At least we have the fall back of knowing that we will be in the draw for the Finals when that takes place in Bucharest on Saturday week.
And at least we are in the pot for the Play-off draw which will take place at UEFA’s HQ in Switzerland this Friday.
Results tonight will determine who are our most likely opponents, with Wales, Slovakia, Bosnia and Northern Ireland all in the mix at either the semi-final stage of the ultimate ‘win or go home’ tie, both of which will be played in March.
Because of our poor results in last year’s Nations League against Wales and Denmark, we know that we will be playing away from home in the semi-final, a game that will be decided on the night whether in 90 minutes, after extra time or on penalties.
There will be drama and that might not be the end of it with a potential Final decider against Northern Ireland one of the options that could emerge.
From the FAI’s perspective, at a time of such sweeping and enormous change, it adds an asterisk to planning for 2020, both on and off the field.
We do know however that the Aviva Stadium will be hosting four games regardless of who they are between. New travel arrangements and stewarding were in evidence around the ground last night and all seemed to work well with fans who were generally in a good mood despite the cold.
Coming from behind and having a blood raising final five minutes will have helped that mood before the morning hangover of what might have been kicked in but from a ground-level perspective at least, all the plans for moving people in and out in optimum fashion, bearing in minds the needs and demands of UEFA, seemed to work well.
Now the focus turns to the U21 team, in action tonight at Tallaght Stadium against Sweden. With 13 points we sit atop Group one with games to come against Italy and Iceland. The Finals take place in 2021 in Hungary and Slovakia. You’d never know after Friday we could have an opportunity to see what the latter is like at hosting big games.
Image credits, Inpho.ie