By Ciaran O Raghallaigh in Poznan
This Irish fan’s flag summed things up.
“At least we stayed til the end Roy”, it read, summing up the defiant nature of the Ireland support, but at the same time admitting that all there was to cheer about was pissing off Roy Keane.
Ireland’s Euro 2012 adventure is over, eight days after the beginning of the end.
In truth, the end couldn’t come quickly enough.
For some of the squad members who didn’t play a minute in the tournament, they’ll wonder what it was all about. It was like having a ringside seat at an execution.
Seven players didn’t get one second on the pitch, despite the underachievement of those who were played in all three.
It’s just one of the many questions that must be asked.
There will be anger, frustration and maybe more in the weeks to come.
Tonight, in the post-match mixed zone where players walk through to face the media, some of the senior players spoke, and admitted they’d not performed.
Others refused to stop, ‘there’s nothing to say’, they argued. And who could disagree?
Some players were asked of their future plans, particularly the older ones, but none revealed any retirement plans.
There will be though; there must be.
Either the players will walk, or Giovanni Trapattoni (who’s going nowhere, he assured us), will push them.
Despite his heroics for over a decade, Shay Given didn’t look like he particularly enjoyed this tournament – something that should have been a career highlight, having waited a decade for it to come around.
His mistakes tonight against Italy were not what we’ve come to expect. Was he unfit? Should he walk?
John O’Shea is another with a few questions hanging over him. Was that the level of performance we should expect from someone with hundreds of appearances under his belt at Manchester United?
O’Shea was one of the worst performers in the Ireland team, and that’s saying something.
Few will have enhanced their reputations this summer, particularly not the manager, who should have most to lose.
The fans still sang when his face appeared on the giant screens in Poznan, but why?
His selections must have provoked some players who didn’t get a run out, and may have even baffled those who started – despite playing poorly.
Loyalty is fine, loyalty to mediocrity is an idiot’s philosophy.
When the frustration at his starting lineups subsided, his substitutions angered.
Strikers on the wing appeared his only trick. Really Giovanni, really?
Ireland deserved better, the players deserved better and in truth, the manager should have delivered more.
One friendly stands between now and Ireland’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
The supporters who lit up every stadium they entered in Poland will be the only ones who can attend it with their heads held high.