'Everyone who was pulled out of the room knew it was bad news' - Robbie Keane
Published 01/06/2016 | 02:30
Not quite the send-off Ireland wanted. Then again, a few players got a send-off they would never have wanted.
In the cramped confines of Turner's Cross, Martin O'Neill selected each of the players from his squad for last night's game to inform them that they would not be in his squad for the next one.
Simple, but brutal. Public execution in the private intimacy of the dressing-room.
Understandably, the Irish players firstly seek the supporters' giddy pens for autograph signing rather than those of the expectant writers amassed outside the room where dreams had soared and been dismantled just moments earlier.
David Forde mingles with the fans classily still signing autographs, but walks wanly towards the exit, understandably mute, his axing publicly confirmed as he did so.
Moments earlier, before the squad is released, Robbie Keane is amongst us, too, but refuses an invitation to confirm if he is either in and out. We don't know if Shay Given does; he knows he has.
"It's not a nice feeling for anyone in there because there are players who are disappointed," he reveals. "It's a tough decision for the manager and it's tough for the players. It's a tight-knit group. So we are all gutted for the players who won't make it.
"It's not about celebration, it's about what got us here and we were in this together. There are players who were left out who played in qualifying rounds.
"There are a few young players who probably weren't expected to make it. It's tough for whoever is left out because they have trained the last 10 days. It's not easy for the gaffer either. But we've got to get on with it.
"It was tough because we were sitting in the room waiting. What can you say? It's not an easy job for the gaffer, it's not an easy job for the players who get called out and spoken to. It was a tough one.
"It was just quiet. It wasn't a nice feeling because everyone knew that if they were being pulled it was going to be bad news for them. So it was not a nice feeling, more so for the players who weren't picked."
"It's not nice," adds Richard Keogh, one of the lucky ones. "We've been together a long time this group and it was going to be a tough decision for the manager.
"We've all been together through the qualification campaign and we're very close, so it's not a nice feeling.
"But we'll rally round together and those that go will wish the others the best, and those that get to go will be ready.
"Unfortunately, that's football. I'm sure the manager will speak about how tough it was but the players who go have got to make sure they're ready and we are."