THEY LIVED the dream by playing in a stunning-looking stadium in front of a crowd of almost 25,000, but today it was back to reality and real life for the players of St Patrick's Athletic. Back to work, even, for the part-time players in the Saints panel.
Hopes of overcoming the 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying round tie against Hannover were not even mentioned in the build-up to the second leg in Germany last night, but there was a stated ambition from the Saints to try and get a result on the night.
In the end the scoreline was stark, 2-0 on the night and 5-0 on aggregate.
It's easy to slip back into the comfort of the moral victory and it could be seen as patronising and old school to admit that Pats were "not disgraced" on the night. But better and richer teams than St Pat's will come to the AWD Arena and lose by a scoreline of 2-0 or more.
The frustration today, as Pats headed home on an early morning flight to Dublin from Hamburg, comes from the fact that slack -- in fact non-existent -- defending from Pats handed Hannover their two goals on the night, a corner kick on 32 minutes leading to the opening goal from Karim Haggui and another corner just a minute into the second half set up the second from sub Mario Eggimann.
But while the overall adventure against Hannover was an enjoyable one for the Irish visitors -- Hannover as a city, a club and their fans were incredibly receptive, helpful and respectful towards St Pat's and last night's game was played in a brilliant atmosphere, the Hannover support in the 24,500 crowd showing their class by applauding the Pats players and supporters -- the exercise revealed once again just how far Irish football is from the Bundesliga.
Just to underline that, two of the Hannover subs used against Pats last night were full internationals, for Poland and Switzerland. Pats brought on a sub who was signed on a free transfer from Southend United.
"We gave a good account of ourselves but we don't live in the same world as their players," Pats captain Conor Kenna admitted afterwards.
"The wage gap between the clubs is massive. Every single thing about this club is world-class. In Ireland, we are years behind the likes of Hannover.
"We have so many problems to deal with before we can even think of matching someone like Hannover on the pitch. We're light years away from even being at a level with their likes, the distance between us is outrageous.
"When you're beaten by a better side you have to hold your hands up and admit it but I think any neutral would admit that we gave a good account of ourselves.
"Look how far they went in the Europa League last year, they could do the same again this season.
"It's just frustrating that the two goals were preventable. The first one was a good one from their point of view, it was a nice finish, but it was awful from our side of things.
"We gave away silly goals from set pieces and you can't do that against any team, but especially against a great European side. It's something we have to rectify for the rest of the season. If you can't do the basics you have no chance," added Kenna.
Yet Pats did have one very good chance, when John Russell carved out an opening for Kenna in the 12th minute and the home supporters were relieved to see the strike come off the crossbar.
"I was in the right place at the right time and I just had a go. On another night the shot might have gone in, but that's the way it happens, and you have to take your chances against teams like this," Kenna added.
"You look at Hannover in the first leg. They had about four chances and scored three goals, that's the class you are dealing with so to have any chance you need to put away your chances.
"But we gave a good account of ourselves, we created chances over the 180 minutes and I hope that people looking in will be impressed with us as a club and as players."