When the final whistle sounded at Aviva last Thursday night, you glanced up to see the house booth was almost empty, with what was left of the crowd quickly drying the stairs. About 48 hours later another final whistle blast at the same stadium triggered an ecstasy riot, when Ireland celebrated the victory over the All Blacks.
The contrast cannot be more cruel.
In one sport, the entire Irish team beat the best team in the world for the second time in three attempts, while on the other hand, partitioned two Irish sections were unable to score against themselves.
In the spring of 2015 I wrote an article about competition in Ireland between football and rugby, which encouraged him that soccer players were relatively difficult in terms of the credit they received from the media and the Irish public.
"It's easier to be the best in the world when the world & # 39; covers eight or nine countries," I wrote. "People associate their judgment about the quality of a player around the results of the team they play. Irish rugby results are good, so players get respect, recognition and praise.
"The results of football are not so good, so the players were dismissed as mediocre. The giant pyramid of competition that professional players must enter to reach the international level is rarely taken into account. Many people don't realize how great you are being a mediocre soccer player. "
The bottom line remains the same as it is now in 2015: the world of international football is bigger, worse, and more competitive than international rugby. But it is no longer possible to defend any argument that makes Irish football make honorable boxers to compete in a more demanding international landscape.
We all understand that rugby has certain structural and economic advantages. Irish rugby players can have top-level professional careers based at home, while our players are still exported in nails to the main markets in the UK where they are increasingly seen as lower products.
As Michael O’Neill told Michael Walker in Irish Times interview last month: "What they did [English clubs] associate Irish players with? Is that technical ability? There is always our fighting spirit. . . "
In contrast, Irish rugby displays strong, skilled and tactical smart athletes like everyone else out there. With young stars like Jacob Stockdale and Jordan Larmour, rugby proves that Irish people can be fast lately.
As Emmet Malone wrote this newspaper last week, young Irish rugby players can often take advantage of the best sports facilities in rich private schools that produce many players, while the facilities available to most young players remain relatively underfunded and decrepit.
FAI's struggle did not help. One way to assess the dynamics of the 13-year regime of John Delaney is to compare how FAI finances have had an influence relative to IRFU over the past decade.
In 2007, IRFU changed more than € 48 million and FAI € 45 million. In 2017, IRFU's turnover grew 82 percent, to € 85 million, while FAI had grown 9 percent, to € 49 million.
During this year it has become clear that the big-picture stagnation of Irish football has been aggravated by stagnant and outdated thinking at the top of the national team.
When O'Neill was asked why his team failed to score in the last three games, he said again that the squad did not have a "goalscorer"
Compare how the two national coaches, Joe Schmidt and Martin O’Neill, analyzed their team's performances over the past few days.
When O'Neill was asked why his team failed to score in the last three games, he said again that the squad did not have a "goalscorer".
If you offer superficial answers like a TV scholar, the station won't ask you back. But this has been O’Neill's explanation for months.
O’Neill agrees with the suggestion that the players do not show enough personality in the field.
"It has nothing to do with tactics," he said. "This is related to taking a game with the nape of the neck and becoming a character to do that."
But for today's top coaches, the concept of "personality" vaguely has everything related to tactics. How are players expected to show confidence and character if they don't have a clear concept of what they should do?
Think about the steps that led to Ireland's efforts against New Zealand. The opportunity was created by a sudden change of direction in the midfield that wrongly infected the All Black defense and created space on the left for Jacob Stockdale to attack.
Ireland did not score this goal because the great Stockdale had the personality to take the game by the nape of the neck and bend it to his will with sheer character strength. Stockdale played his part in the choreographic team movements Ireland had trained many times in training. Joe Schmidt has seen the drama while looking for ideas in New Zealand's provincial rugby.
"I'm always looking for and always watching," Schmidt said on Saturday. "I watch the Miter Cup 10, and they always get some good ones. There's a good thing recently played by the Highlanders and I said to the coaches, & # 39; Maybe we can do this & # 39 ;. "
Pep Guardiola is not known as a rugby fan, but he will be very happy with Stockdale's efforts.
Marti Perarnau explained how Pep told his Bayern players in 2014: "In all team sports, the secret is to burden one side of the field so that the opponent must tilt his own defense to overcome it. You overload one side and pull them in so they leave the other side weak.
Charlton's tactics did not suit everyone's taste, but at least he had a clear idea of what his players wanted
"And when we did all that, we attacked and scored from the other side. That's why you have to pass the ball, but only if you do it with clear intentions. It's just to burden the opponent, to pull them in and then hit them with a suction blow. That's what our game needs. "
The understanding that what works in one sport can be utilized well in another explains why English rugby coach Eddie Jones traveled to Munich to study Bayern's training under Guardiola. Similar encouragement encouraged amateur GAA players to learn basketball tactics to help them play better Gaelic football.
There was a time when Irish football, too, was tactical going forward. Jack Charlton went to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and returned full of ideas about how to fight prevailing orthodoxy; if other people will use slow build-ups and playmakers, Ireland will use long balls to reverse full-backs and put high pressure on the pitch.
Charlton's tactics did not suit everyone's tastes, but at least he had a clear idea of what his players wanted, and that clarity might have something to do with the personality and character that became famous.
Charlton understood that if a small country like Ireland would succeed, they needed an idea. This is a lesson that the current generation of Irish soccer leaders has forgotten.
So we drifted away, wondering why our players no longer had personalities, and blamed our inability to score on the lack of a magic goal scorer, rather than lack of a plan.