We are all waiting with varying degrees of both dread and optimism ahead of the Euro 2016 draw later today in Paris.
The end of Ireland’s qualifying campaign was, for many, almost too much to take. From the smug relief after the Germany win, through the harsh slap of Polish reality and the gut-shredding uncertainty of the Bosnia play-offs, some Ireland fans could be forgiven for thinking the worst is over.
However, this weekend’s draw could fall kindly and offer the Boys in Green a genuine chance of progressing to the knockout rounds of a major tournament for the first time since 2002.
But it could also land Martin O’Neill’s men in another Group of Death, akin to Euro 2012, and on the plane home much earlier than the Green Army would like.
So at Back Page Football, we take a look at the best, and yes I’m sorry, the worst case scenarios for Ireland next summer in France.
Having qualified for France via the play-offs, Ireland find themselves in Pot 4 for the draw, essentially leaving them in hands of fate on Saturday.
Ireland’s best option from Pot 1 is undoubtedly Portugal. Despite strolling to qualification, the Portuguese experienced very little challenge, with Albania their closest qualification rival in a four team group.
Whilst they do possess the enigmatic talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho, at the back veteran duo Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alves could be exposed if Shane Long and Jon Walters are in the mood.
It would represent the least of many evils, as a tie against old foes Germany, Spain or England is best avoided until later if possible.
From Pot 2, fellow play off qualifiers Ukraine offer the best option for Ireland, with Austria looking something of a unknown entity following their successful qualification out of a tricky group.
Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko provide a real threat going forward, however as a team they are not prolific, and if Ireland can shut down the threat of those two they can do some real damage.
In Pot 3 Hungary should be ripe for the taking for Ireland, having achieved the lowest points total during qualifying for any team in the tournament (based on a five team group).
In truth they laboured to qualification via the play offs, behind Northern Ireland and Romania, and lack a genuine forward threat and conceded nine goals in ten qualifying games.
Pot 1 is full of potential tournament winners, but Spain look to be the most likely to offer Ireland the biggest threat. They disposed of Mick McCarthy’s team in 2002 and were Ireland’s last opponents in their disastrous Euro 2012 campaign.
They are beginning to return to their all-conquering best, and as holders they will be in no mood for taking their foot off the pedal.
England and Germany would also offer a threat, but Ireland has found a way to play against them both in recent years.
In Pot 2 the Italians are the team to avoid, though they may lack the star names of the past, they are seasoned tournament performers and will be a real dark horse in France.
Wily campaigners such as Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Daniele De Rossi will ensure that the Azzurri are a match for anyone.
Pot 3 could spring a surprise or two, but for Ireland a reunion with qualifying buddies Poland is best avoided. Poland looked very strong in qualification, losing just once, and with Robert Lewandowski’s ridiculous ability to score goals at any level they should not be underestimated.
Poland have not got out of the group stages of a major tournament since 1986, however this crop of players is the best they have had in a long time and they will be keen to erase memories of their dismal display as hosts in 2012.