Kevin Moran exclusive column: Let's forget about Stuttgart as we set out on a great new adventure
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Italia 90, we will be reliving all the action from that memorable World Cup
THE hype ends here. Tonight we turn our backs on what has seemed an eternity of waiting and set about discovering the truth.
You can dream, hope and aspire to the grandest nations in football but, come the World Cup, you either provide compelling proof or forever hold your peace.
This is the ultimate measure of a football team. It is like the final exam paper, if you like.
Since we arrived in Sardinia, adrenalin has simply been racing through our veins. The two weeks in Malta seemed to drag on forever and, in truth, it was sometimes difficult to equate the waiting with being a World Cup team.
But here the buzz is deafening. Everywhere we turn, it seems another television crew is following us. The atmosphere is quite electrifying.
Tonight, admittedly, we must close our ears to the bedlam and set about imprinting our talents on the world stage.
Let it be said that I feel we should forget about what happened in Stuttgart two years back. For, even though we open against England again, this game should be seen as a fresh start, a new adventure.
I have no doubt we can beat England again. Why shouldn't we? This will be like a game between two good First Division clubs and, frankly, neither side can presume upon anything. I suspect the English may start very cagily although, when they did that in Germany we took full advantage and were a goal in front inside eight minutes.
Just now, they probably feel a bit like a team under siege. Try as they might to distance themselves from the hooligan element that follows them, they know that the world resents England for its supporters.
Equally, they have become incensed by their own media's apparent obsession with digging up some form of dirt about them. If you can't trust your own people, who can you trust?
All this, strangely, I feel will help England to have a good tournament. It has bonded their 22 players together like never before, jelled them into an incredibly close unit.
And let's get another thing crystal clear. The build-up games become an absolute irrelevance when you get here. They do nothing to measure a team's real substance.
Thus, when you hear of Brazil losing or of England scrambling a late equaliser against Tunisia you should let it go in one ear and out the other. Build-up games prove nothing about a team's credentials.
Just now, I don't know if I will be playing against England. That's a strange feeling but it's one that quite a few of us are experiencing right now. I feel I can say with some certainty that there is not one player in the squad who yet knows the team that Jack plans to start with tonight. Like others, I can merely hope that I am on it.
Whatever he decides, you can rest assured that Ireland will not fall into the trap that snared Argentina so dramatically on Friday night.
It seemed to me that the Argentinians presumed a goal would come to them at any minute; it was as if they considered victory a divine right.
The Cameroons showed so much more vigour, so much more determination that Maradona and company were, ultimately, a little overwhelmed.
Under Jack Charlton, we have never been guilty of presumption and I don't think we're about to start now.
Everyone of us know the importance of taking something from tonight's game. If we do so, we really can look with confidence towards qualifying for the second phase.
We have had our fill now of the hype, the talk, the expectation. Let the party begin. I am certain we are ready!