Who would have thought it five years ago that we would have the Brazil football team playing at the headquarters of the GAA against the Republic of Ireland!
On a cool damp February night, we made our way through the Dublin traffic to see an Irish team with no manager and reduced morale take on the team with the greatest football heritage in the world.
The substantial Brazilian population working in Ireland added to a great carnival atmosphere, for them it was their Mardi Gras seeing their famous heroes for the first time. Male and female turned up in the Brazil colours with painted faces and a noisy Samba band to add to the revelry.
We were lucky to be near the Brazil end and could hear the lively music on this, an Ash Wednesday evening.
While Ireland had a good second half they were vastly out-skilled by the wonderful ball playing Brazilians, who seemed to be able to run into vacant positions at ease leaving Irish midfielders and defenders behind them.
The last pass seemed to go astray, but it was wonderful to watch the artistry of them as they coolly moved the ball and played with the men in green, who were nearly always playing catch up. Robinho and Ze Roberto were especially good.
Even though they lacked Ronaldo, Ronadinho of Barcelona, Roberto Carlos and Adriano, this younger Brazilian team still oozed with talent.
Going in at half-time goalless was a fair achievement for the Irish defence, who could have conceded two or three, but seemed to be able to get a leg in at a critical point to break up an attack. Given was also on form.
In the second half the return of Damien Duff and the bringing on of Stephen Hunt pepped up the Irish attack with Robbie Keane. Hunt did far better than Kevin Doyle, who seemed not on form that night.
If there was better supply from the middle of the field, this side has some potential for the future with new Irish manager from Italy, Giovanni Trappatoni.
Some new midfield players might add more zest to the Irish team. Reid was missed but maybe new talent needs to be found by the new manager and get a better shape on this team that has potential after some barren years.
Inevitably Robinho’s 67 minute goal through the legs of Carsley into Given’s left side of goal was deserved, as they were the superior team.
However, an equaliser by the Irish was possible in the last quarter as the home support got behind the team in this 70,000 crowd.
There is a feeling that this Irish team could be on a path of resurgence after the Cyprus debacle and our elimination from the Euro campaign.
This matched proved to be a confidence boost for all concerned on the Irish team, except perhaps Kevin Doyle.
What a pity that this performance was not achieved earlier in the Euro campaign. Mr Trappatoni, the likely new manager, will now have more to build on.
Incidentally, the complaints about no manager for a few months seem somewhat groundless if the right man is available; securing services mid season is never easy; also the wages saved when there are no competitive matches will be considerable and could run to hundreds of thousands of euro.
Leaving Croke Park after the game people were generally satisfied with what they saw, even though it was only a friendly. We saw some great football played in good spirit, along with a Mardi Gras festival style crowd from Brazil, it sent one home pleased.
The FAI made a good financial coup, which will be needed in future management contracts. Good luck to John Delaney, we feel he has got it right this time, now it is up to the players on the field to do the work and show pride again in the green jersey.