Just a few hours before Shane Long sent the nation into ecstasy on Thursday last, I’d had a great chat with Matt Keane, much of it, untypically, of a non-sporting nature.
On a few fronts, away from the playing pitches we so happily and regularly frequent – i.e. in real life – 2015 hasn’t exactly been wine and roses.
But conscious that neither of us are on an overpopulated boat off the Turkish coast, we reflected on the things that welcomingly distract us and we both agreed how glad we were for them.
That same night, one of those great past times that Matt, myself and thousands more big kids like us have loved for decades, offered a timely reminder of why we adore it so much.
Even if the gross financial excesses of the Premier League leave some of its practitioners more detached from fans than many politicians are from us ‘ordinary’ voters, the beautiful game is impossible to turn one’s back on.
To see an Irish team, captained by a Waterfordman, containing another Deiseman in its starting XI, see off the reigning World Cup holders thanks to a goal scored by a hurling-mad Tipperary man, really was something special.
In the immediate aftermath of last Thursday’s victory, pundits recalled our last great scalping of a top-ranking soccer nation – the 2001 victory against The Netherlands.
That was, of course, another 1-0, against the odds victory against a side full of world-renowned stars widely acknowledged as being better technicians than the men in green.
But last Thursday, for me, saw that win and bettered it. While defeating Italy in the 1994 World Cup remains a standalone result given the status of the fixture, defeating the World Champions, for me, represents the Republic of Ireland’s greatest ever victory.
Consider a back four which contained three Championship players, including Stephen Ward, who has played precious little football for Burnley this season.
Consider goalkeeper Darren Randolph, with just one Premier League outing this season for West Ham (a day when Bournemouth stuck four past him), replacing Shay Given, currently benching it for Stoke.
An Irish team featuring three Derby County players – Cyrus Christie (in only his third international appearance), Andy Keogh and Jeff Hendrick – defeated a German side featuring four Bayern Munich stars.
And while Ireland did ride their luck on occasion, and could thank Thomas Muller for shanking a sitter, their endeavour, their work rate and commitment to the cause, could not be quibbled it.
Then again, outside of the chaotic Steve Staunton era, there’s rarely been a time when an Irish team hasn’t been full-blooded, even when the odds have been stacked against them.
And at the heart of the Irish effort was John O’Shea, a consummate professional, who, like the other 13 men in green last Thursday night, dug deep into his reserves to haul his team across the finish line.
Club life at Sunderland may well have been ravaged by ministerial instability, but it’s coincided with the Ferrybank centurion’s best run of form for his country, and it’s no surprise that he’s found that level of consistency at centre-back.
That Richard Dunne hasn’t been missed since his retirement speaks volumes for John’s form and leadership abilities. And when he looks back on the past year, scoring in Gelsenkirchen and captaining Ireland to victory over the Germans in Dublin, he’s got a great deal to be proud of. As for Shane Long’s goal? A thing of beauty on a night we’ll always treasure, in spite of what may lie ahead come the play-offs.