'You watch them on TV and you don't realise how good they are until you are on pitch'
ONE by one, the Ireland players who figured in the defeat by Spain at Yankee Stadium queued up to offer praise to their vaunted opponents.
An understrength Ireland side managed to keep the world and European champions out until the 69th minute when Roberto Soldado struck from outside the area and, after a Sean St Ledger goal was rightly chalked off for offside, another Spanish sub, Chelsea's Juan Mata, grabbed a second just minutes before the end.
While Spain practically owned the ball from start to finish, Ireland did have chances.
Conor Sammon wasted a one-on-one in the first half and late replacement James McClean tested Real Madrid stopper Iker Casillas when the Derby striker played him through on goal.
St Ledger's moment came from the subsequent corner.
With Nottingham Forrest's Simon Cox coming back from an offside position, he helped steer the ball the defender's way after Casillas had produced a wonder stop to deny Stephen Kelly.
"You're playing against a world-class side and you know they're going to have probably 90pc possession. You've got to be tipping them for the World Cup again next summer if that team stays fit.
"It just seems to be a never-ending chain of players. I thought we defended well at times and I was a little disappointed because I nearly got my first goal.
"It was a great save from Casillas; I was peeling off thinking it might have gone in."
"It was a fantastic experience. Pity about the result but it's Spain – the best team in the world by a mile.
"We stuck at it and the lads worked really hard. It was disappointing to concede the goals when we did. It has been a long two- and-a-half-weeks with a lot of travelling.
"Overall, it's been a successful period and we're still in with a chance of qualifying for the World Cup which is the main objective."
"It was an unbelievable test. You get to watch them on the TV but you don't realise just how good they are until you are on the pitch with them.
"The quality and depth of talent that they have is frightening. I had a great chance in the first half, but just did not get my foot around the ball.
"They were the kind of moments we were living for and waiting for in the game."
Sean St Ledger
"I thought I'd scored and went away celebrating but it was actually a really good decision from the linesman, having seen it again.
"We did a lot better than in Poland. They are an unbelievable side for hanging on to the ball – they do that to nearly every team in the world.
"I can't see any other winners of the World Cup next year."
"I was looking at the clock with about 20 minutes to go. Thankfully, I got the chance and I had a bit to do.
"I was happy to make the save and the second one for the goal was unlucky as I tried to make myself as big as possible but you can't complain – it's a cap against the European and world champions.
"You fully appreciate how good they are when you're up close."
"They are the best team in the world and had all the star players on show. It was tough when they scored.
"Although they absolutely dominated us, we had good organisation and limited them to long-range shots.
"Casillas made that great save and, had the goal not been ruled out, we might have got the draw."