SHAY GIVEN believes that Ireland will be one of the teams feared by other nations when UEFA makes the draw tomorrow for the European Championship play-offs.
The Irish squad were heading out of Lansdowne Road last night and thinking about resuming club duties after that long international break as updates from the games in the other groups across Europe were filtering through, with news from Paris (France-Bosnia) and Maribor (Slovenia-Serbia) meaning that Ireland avoided that dreaded/dreamed of (take your pick) rematch with France in a play-off and will instead face up to one of Turkey, Estonia, Bosnia or Montenegro.
But for Given, the only survivor from that rain-soaked and tear-stained night in Brussels back in 1997, the attitude is: bring 'em on.
"Whoever we draw, they will not be too happy to come here, they will be in for two tough games against us," Given said after last night's 2-1 win over Armenia.
"It was a tense night but we have to be happy with the performance and we will enjoy it. It's a big achievement, getting 21 points in the group, so we look forward to the draw (tomorrow).
"I don't agree with the seeding of the teams but if we get a slight advantage from that then we'll take it. I feel that the eight teams who have done well enough to get here should be piled into a pot and you get who you get in the draw.
"But people in higher positions than me make these decisions. I have no preference for the draw, we will study whoever we get and hope we get through.
"Next month is a huge game no matter who we get but the fans last night were tremendous and we'll need them again next month, it was by far the best atmosphere since we came to the Aviva. As I said before the game, we needed the fans and they stood up for us last night," added Given, who swatted away the suggestion that Ireland will need to raise their game for the play-offs.
"We raised our game last night," he said. "People look at the negatives too much, we have to try and get behind the team and be positive, enjoy the night and the occasion.
"The fans were nervous at the end but we were comfortable enough, they didn't cut us open on too many occasions."
Two talking points swirled around as fans dissected the game in pubs across the city or in buses and cars on the way home: the red cards for Roman Berezovsky and Kevin Doyle, and the concession of a second-half goal to Armenian attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
"I should have done better for their goal. I saw it late and I was diving backwards as a consequence -- I could only help it into the side of the net. But these things happen, it didn't cost us and I won't lose any sleep over it, we move on to the next game," said Given, who has yet to get a clear view of the incident which saw keeper Berezovsky sent off and replaced by rookie Arsen Petrosyan, Armenia's third-choice shot-stopper.
"I feel a little bit of sympathy for their keeper. When it happened, I thought straight away it was a handball and you have to give the referee credit, he only gets one chance to see it.
"I haven't seen the replay yet but the lads have told me that it hit his chest and then his hands and if that's the case it's still handball. I want what's best for Ireland and that obviously helped us last night."