No sooner had Ireland’s Euro 2016 revelry faded to black than Martin O’Neill’s men found themselves on the ‘Road to Russia’.
Putin’s eastern bloc will play host to next year’s World Cup, and given the boys in green’s seamless ascent through qualification thus far, credit unions across the country could be in line for some big business.
Next month’s home clash with Group D rivals Wales will likely hold many of the cards in that respect, Ireland’s prospects inclined to be whole lot clearer come curtain fall on March 24th.
Our Celtic cousins will bring an abundance of top-tier talent across the channel, galacticos Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey of an ilk unmatched by any in the O’Neill camp.
Thankfully, the Irish national team has long-since eclipsed the sum of its parts, our so-called lesser lights tending to burn brightest come the big occasion.
Robbie Brady alone appears proof enough of that, the hero of June’s Italian Job having once more propelled himself into the headlines this weekend. Sunday saw the new Burnley boy arrest Chelsea’s development with a picture-book free-kick, his debut strike the toast of social media for hours thereafter.
It amounted to just the latest stanza in a storied spell for the Irish abroad, however, the 25-year-old’s performance coming hot on the heels of similarly stellar showings a level below.
Our own Daryl Horgan was very much at the forefront in that regard, the former Dundalk man popping his Championship cherry after a patented solo run against Brentford.
“I was very impressed with Daryl,” reflected Preston manager Simon Grayson. “It’s funny because just before the goal we were looking to take him off as he looked like he was starting to fatigue a little. But then he just burst out of the blocks, took the shot on early and didn’t allow the keeper to get set.”
“Hopefully it’ll give his confidence a big boost, because he is a good player and good lad, who is willing to work.”
Horgan’s effort was one of four registered by the Deepdale men last Saturday, club and international teammate Aiden McGeady also getting in on the act.
In fact it proved something of a career day for the Paisley-born winger, his scintillating strikes and dribbles beyond those normally associated with an Aldi-brand Adam Lallana.
“We joked earlier this week about his end product, wanting a couple of better deliveries or shots on target and he has certainly responded to those cries,” quipped Grayson.
“It was fantastic quality from Aiden and anyone who knows him and has watched him knows he is capable of that and we were delighted to see the ball hit the back of the net twice.”
Eamon Dunphy’s pet project Wes Hoolahan would go on to round off an already rousing weekend, submitting his own contender for goal of the month with a 30-yard volley versus Nottingham Forest.
And yet, as refreshing as it is to see our boys paint the town green, here’s hoping they save some for Chris Coleman and company!
This article originally appeared on The Season Ticket.