It took seven editions of the UEFA European Championship Finals before the Republic of Ireland secured a place it it’s first, the adventure that was Euro88 in Germany.

The achievement was remarkable given that only eight countries made it to the Finals stage.

Even more so in our defeat of England in the opening fixture, draw against the Soviet Union in the second and narrow defeat to the Netherlands in the third.

If we had drawn that game we would have gone through to the Semi-Final. The strength of our group was such that the final itself was played between the Dutch and the Russians.

They were days to remember, fabled in song and enshrined in the collective consciousness not only of football fans but of all sports fans.

Two years later we got to the Quarter Finals of a World Cup at Italia ’90 and four years later beat Italy at USA ’94.

The very best of times to be a fan.

It has been more meagre pickings at the top table since then with one more World Cup, in Japan, Korea and an island called Saipan in 2002, and two more Euro Championship Finals, in 2012 when we lost all three in a group that once again produced the two ultimate finalists, and in 2016 where we were one of 24 teams and lost to France in the Round of 16 who went on to lose in the Final to Portugal.

Even though the number of teams qualifying for the major tournaments has risen, so too has the competitiveness of trying to be one of them.

Northern Ireland had some glittering success well before their neighbours, qualifying for the Finals in 1958, 1982, and 1986.  They remain the least populous country to have won a game at the finals and to have qualified beyond the first round of the group stage.

In 1958 they made it to the quarter-finals and in 1982 they beat hosts Spain 1-0 to top the group and only went out to a France team inspired by Michel Platini.

There was a gap then from 1986 to 2016 in terms of major finals and Euro 2016 was another success story with a win over Ukraine setting up a Round of 16 tie against Wales that ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat.

In the Women’s game, Northern Ireland qualified for the 2021 Euro’s in England (played in 2022) and the Republic made it’s Major Championship debut at this summer’s World Cup.

The latest Men’s international window means it is unlikely, though not yet impossible for either country to qualify for the next Euro Finals in Germany in 2024 but looking at history, what right do we have of such high expectations?

This is not to say we should lose all hope., far from it.  Every tournament qualification brings that fresh hope and that is the essence of being a sports fan.

The reality is that an Irish team has made it to the World Cup Finals on six occasions out of 22, and to four European Championship Finals out of 16.  A hit rate of 27.2 percent and 25 percent respectively is what we have achieved historically and while we might argue that the numbers taking part have risen, so too has that level of competitiveness.

The hope, belief, and aim should always be to qualify for a major finals.  It is those memories that keep the support of the national team alive. Hitting one out of every four combined, or one out of every eight as an individual team is a generational rather than a rightful target that we have achieved in the history of the game.

And if history teaches us anything it is that it loves to repeat itself or at least give a good guide to the future

There will be times when the stars align, when a great group comes together under great leadership and magic happens but if our genuine expectation is to be at every major tournament finals then we are more likely to be disappointed than elated once every couple of years.

If you support a team that wins all the time, then the fun evaporates.  Winning is seen as the minimum acceptable standard and defeat is a disaster.  The majority of fans support their team from the other perspective, that disappointment is the norm which makes the wins even more joyous and special when they come around.

If that is too realistic a view then perhaps supporting sport is not really the best thing for you.  After all, there are plenty of other avenues to be disappointed with in life.

But when it goes as well as it sometimes gloriously can, there are few that are better.  We should remember those when things don’t quite go the way we want.  And rise again the next time to go through it all again.