The revolution has begun. Stephen Kenny's first game in charge of Ireland saw a radical change in the way the team plays. There'd been warnings not to expect too much from the manager's debut outing. Pundits predicted Ireland might not be all that different from the team they'd been under Mick McCarthy. In fact, the change in style was so great as to verge on the shocking.
his might be slightly camouflaged by the fact that the result, a 1-1 draw with Shane Duffy heading a late equaliser, evoked a distinct feeling of déjà vu. But delve a little deeper and it's clear that what happened in Sofia was nothing less than the replacement of the philosophy which has held sway over the Irish team for decades by an entirely different one.
In Sofia, Ireland enjoyed a 63 per cent share of possession. That's an almost unparalleled situation. In our last Nations League away match, under Martin O'Neill against Denmark, we had 30 per cent. In our last competitive away match, under Mick McCarthy against Switzerland, we had 40 per cent.
Denmark and Switzerland are stronger than Bulgaria. So perhaps it's fairer to compare Thursday's performance with those recently produced against Georgia. The difference is still striking. Away against Georgia in the last European Championship qualifier we had 46 per cent. Three years ago in the World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi Ireland enjoyed just 26 per cent.
In our last two home meetings against Georgia, Ireland had 50 per cent possession under McCarthy and 44 per cent under O'Neill. And Bulgaria are probably a bit stronger than Georgia, who lie 32 places below them in the world rankings. Ireland have already changed significantly.
Passing stats tell a similar story. On Thursday Ireland completed 509 passes. In McCarthy's two final away games, against Georgia and Switzerland, the combined total was just 547.
The statistics show the extent to which Ireland have changed but the nature of that change was apparent to even the most casual observer of the match. Instead of defending deep, surrendering territory and relying on long balls forward, Ireland sought to get on the front foot, play out from the back and pass the ball around in midfield.
Such a fundamental change is not going to happen without some teething troubles and it's ironic that the player who seemed most discomfited by the new approach was the one who ended up saving the day for Ireland.
Shane Duffy's unease with both the new possession-based game and the high line kept by the Irish defence was obvious. He gave the ball away early on and seemed reluctant after that to link up with his midfield. His limitations in this area perhaps go some way to explaining why a player of Duffy's sterling defensive qualities fell out of favour with Brighton. Managers want a bit extra from a centre back these days.
The late equaliser illustrated both the attacking threat and the leadership qualities which make Duffy indispensable to Ireland. Yet the new system represents a significant challenge for Thursday's captain.
It's a more challenging system all round. We've harped on in the past about how much more enjoyable a more expansive game would be for the Irish players. But such an approach also imposes considerable demands. Being able to simply hump the ball forward when you come under pressure is an easy option for players. Kenny's new style will take them out of their comfort zone.
A different style will also call for a different kind of player to help implement it. That's why James McCarthy could become the most important player in this Irish team and why the new manager handed him his first cap since 2016.
Glenn Whelan seemed the emblematic figure of the O'Neill era, a tireless scrapper and chaser who was much more effective when the opposition had the ball than when he had it himself. In an era when Ireland will be hoping to enjoy much more possession, it's hard to see much use for a Whelan-type figure.
What the team will need instead is a playmaker and no-one is better qualified for this role than McCarthy. Six years ago when he was 23 and impressing in his first season at Everton as the second most expensive signing in the club's history, the midfielder looked set for a glittering career at both club and international level.
Injuries and loss of form seemed to turn McCarthy into a player with a great future behind him. But even if he looked a shadow of his old self with Crystal Palace for most of the Premier League season, it was the first time since 2016 that he'd been a regular first choice in the top-flight.
Just 29 and playing a role where intelligence matters more than athleticism McCarthy still has the potential to enjoy an Irish renaissance rather than become a perpetual underachiever in the Darron Gibson mould. He was disappointing on Thursday, but Kenny will surely persist with him for a while because he's the best bet to fulfil a function which has suddenly become of crucial importance for Ireland.
What are the other options? Conor Hourihane moved into the central role after McCarthy was subbed on Thursday and is certainly well able to pass the ball. But there's a diffidence about the Villa player which makes you wonder if he'd really be able to handle such a key role. Hourihane's technical gifts are such that it feels like he should have more confidence in his ability to take hold of a game.
Then there's Jack Byrne, a natural playmaker whose elevation to the central role would represent a massive gamble. Yet it wouldn't be beyond Kenny to take that gamble. He's spoken before about how the best League of Ireland players shouldn't be written off because things haven't worked out for them in England. It's unlikely his judgement of players will be inordinately swayed by the opinion of cross-channel managers.
His selection of Adam Idah on Thursday was a prime example of this independence of spirit. There was some adverse comment regarding the omission from the squad of Michael Obafemi who's ahead of Idah in the Premier League pecking order. But Idah, like McCarthy, was in the team because he can fill a role crucial to the way Kenny wants Ireland to play.
Unlike all his striking rivals, who are by and large penalty box predators, Idah has the ability to function as a target man, holding up the ball and linking with midfield. He did both well on Thursday despite often being outnumbered and suffering plenty of punishment. Two particularly deft flicks provided Hourihane and the impressive Aaron Connolly with decent goal chances.
Claims that Idah had a poor game are so removed from reality they illustrate the dangers of watching a game with a preconceived agenda in mind. You can see the attraction of the moral tale, a teenage debutant epitomising the innocence of Ireland's bold new era running aground on the grim realities of international football.
But that's not what happened. The big Corkman's performance was more than respectable, for a 19-year-old neophyte it was remarkable. Then again Callum O'Dowda, easily Ireland's worst player on the night, got the man of the match award so maybe it's not surprising Idah was underappreciated.
There are a fair few proponents of the 'Kenny mugged by reality' storyline out there. Duffy's late intervention stopped them going the whole hog on it for now but they're just itching to pour cold water on all the unseemly populist enthusiasm about the new manager currently doing the rounds.
Pass no heed. The more enthusiasm and expectation surrounding the new era the better. We've done without either for long enough. Stephen Kenny is not just another manager and he's shown that by entirely changing the way Ireland play. It's not a bad trick for starters.
Finland await tonight. It's a pity that the Aviva will be empty but on one level this might be helpful as Ireland seek to settle into their new identity. The possession-based game is the right way to go but this more deliberate style demands patience from the fans. One man's 'controlled build-up' is another's 'messing around with the ball out the field'.
I remember when John Giles, who as manager favoured a similar style to that reintroduced by Kenny, was both lampooned in the press and booed at Lansdowne Road for what was perceived to be his overly-complicated approach. And there will always be a section of the Irish football public for whom Packie Bonner going route one remains the ultimate aphrodisiac.
So not just the players but the fans will have to get used to the Kenny Touch. It might not always be plain sailing. But it will be worth it in the end.
Vive La Revolution.