John Boland: Poll reveals 87pc 'dink' they really know their football
'ARE you as tense and nervous as I am?" Bill O'Herlihy asked pundit John Giles three hours before kick-off. "No," John replied.
Two hours before kick-off, Bill tried again. "Are you getting excited?" he asked John and colleagues Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy. None of them bothered replying. "Well, I certainly am," Bill defiantly maintained.
In the meantime, there was the little matter of the Spain-Italy match, with John and Eamon agreeing that both teams had their fair share of "headbangers". Bill liked the word so much that he chucklingly used it when passing us over to match commentators Stephen Alkin and Brian Kerr.
The latter had his own favourite phrase, which was "dink" -- as in "That's a clever little dink ball" and "He just dinked it in."
It was good to hear it being used by someone other than Liam Brady, who had patiently explained to Bill a couple of nights earlier that it was a "technical term" used by those who really know their football.
Over on ITV, Gordon Strachan really knows his football, but as the British channel had failed to provide accompanying subtitles, I didn't understand a word he was saying.
However, the setting for ITV's punditry -- a balcony overlooking a pretty Warsaw square -- was full of local atmosphere, unlike cash-strapped RTE's dull old Donnybrook studio.
In the lead-up to the Irish match, Bill revealed the results of an RTE poll in which 87pc predicted an Irish win. Bill thought that so optimistic he vainly tried to stop himself laughing. Liam also thought our hopefulness "a little over the top", while John (honoured by Bill as "our senior analyst") opted for realism, too.
Back on ITV, anchorman Adrian Chiles wondered if the Irish "underdogs" had it in them to beat Croatia, "a tough nut to crack". Plain-speaking panellist Roy Keane was in no doubt that Ireland had to win if they were to survive, but thought they had it in them.
Adrian then introduced an "incredible" archive interview with the "irascible Italian" and "sprightly grandfather" who manages the Irish team.
In the interview, recorded when Trapattoni was in charge of a European club, he lambasted his under-performing players.
Not unsurprisingly, the similarly perfectionist Roy admired "the fire in his belly" and declared him a "great manager".
"It's for nights like this that you live and breathe football," RTE commentator George Hamilton observed as the players walked out on to the field to begin their epic encounter.
In living rooms and pubs throughout Ireland, few would have disagreed, even though a long and tormenting 90 minutes lay ahead.