Jack Charlton tosses the remote control to one side and begins picking through a pile of fax messages.
He mutters about not being able to see the buttons, let alone use them. I am in his company, but only nominally here. The room is like a suitcase that's burst open, a great swamp of crumpled clothes and discarded newspapers on the carpet. There's a fast-food bag on the coffee table.
Maybe 12 floors down, in the lobby of Orlando's Hilton North, the strain of ambush relentlessly awaits him. Jack has agreed to this interview, but he's not entirely sure why now.
This room, after all, is his only refuge from the relentless din of questions and an environment bathed in almost obligatory jollity. Stepping out of the lift downstairs, he knows he will be double-teamed instantly by public and media.
Ireland's defeat of Italy in New Jersey may be four days old, but the hysteria shows no softening.
"You try it!" he says, nodding towards the remote. He's looking for Switzerland-Romania, but my search duly takes a blind safari through the screeching landscape of American cable-TV news before stumbling upon the hotel's 'adult movie'.
Jack's bearing instantly softens.
"Eeeeeehhh, that's alright that," he chuckles, spectacles in hand. "Maybe we'll watch the football later!"
"So what do you want?" he asks, matter-of-factly filling two pint glasses from his private keg of Guinness.
Maybe nobody monetised the Ireland manager's job quite like Charlton, yet - for journalists - it never felt as if there was a moat around him either.
Most of us, at some point, could expect to get a private audience like this; to access time with him that he was under absolutely no compulsion to give.
The small handful of senior football correspondents that he came to know and trust often shared late-night whiskeys with Big Jack.
Some even played golf with him when the team settled into its regular base at the Nuremore Hotel in Carrickmacross and, the week of Ireland's Euro '96 play-off against Holland at Anfield, he spent one night playing table football with journalists in the hotel bar. That, of course, would be Charlton's final game as manager.
Two decades later, just weeks before Ireland pitched up at the Euro 2016 finals in France, Martin O'Neill finally granted his first one-to-one interview to an Irish newspaper writer, sitting down with Paul Kimmage for the Sunday Independent. He had been almost three years in the job by then.
Those 20 years that followed Jack's farewell brought a profound sea-change in the interaction between an Irish football squad and the media pack reporting their story. Numbers certainly had a role to play.
From an era in which that pack could be condensed down into RTÉ and the three main daily national newspapers, the mushrooming of print and broadcast demands on manager and players called for a more formal working dynamic.
This dynamic has been rinsed and narrowed into largely superficial group interviews only, a practice open to about as much ingenuity as painting a barn.
But in Jack's time and, still, for some stretch after, journalists travelled on the same flights, stayed in the team hotel and were even indulged the practice of 'door-stepping' players in the lobby or as they exited a dining room during meal-times.
The day before Ireland played Macedonia in April '97 - a game in which they would implode to lose 3-2 - that was my route to an exclusive with Roy Keane, having waited for him to finish lunch in Skopje's Hotel Continental.
Mostly, even then, people didn't bother with Roy. His trademark volatility was an obvious discouragement, but there was the sense too that life at a marquee club like Manchester United had, maybe, seen him outgrow any desire to speak to Irish media on anything other than those few occasions when it was deemed compulsory.
In this instance, I got him on a good day, the Corkman chatting away amiably on a myriad of subjects, among them his conviction that he could never see himself venturing into management.
"I don't think I'd be cruel enough!"
That kind of easy, unplanned interview seems unimaginable today given the strictly sanitised, keyhole access that journalists find themselves restricted to.
Mick McCarthy, like Jack before him, started out with an open, albeit occasionally contrary approach to media. This openness was maybe best encapsulated in that famous barbecue out the back of the Saipan Hyatt 18 years ago. A barbecue designed, essentially, to strengthen the glue between people. Not simply players, but the personnel they could expect to have around them for the next three weeks at least.
Niall Quinn probably put it best in his autobiography with a diary of those tumultuous days. "The point is that an Irish World Cup team is different from other World Cup teams," he wrote. "We do things differently. We're more easy-going. I don't know why but I think it suits us. I think that the day we are the same as everyone else is the day we will have lost our edge.
"Imagine the English World Cup squad flying for 23 hours to an island in the western Pacific. Ok, most likely it wouldn't happen at all but just imagine Becks, Rio and the boys. There would be advance parties and heavy security and their five spin doctors would be spinning like spiders.
"The island would be closed off while the media and the paparazzi peeped at players from zeppelins cruising overhead.
"Us? We travelled to the point of exhaustion, leaving Dublin on Friday morning, getting to Saipan on Saturday afternoon. Tonight we have a barbecue for the media. Then most of the team and probably most of the media will go to a pub and drink together till dawn.
"If anybody writes about it, they'll be given a quiet, dignified burial on the beach. We're different. That's all I'm saying. My experience is that no harm comes from the difference. We thrive on it."
That was McCarthy's philosophy too. Accordingly, players and media duly settled into The Beefeater bar, just 40 yards from the team hotel and - sure enough - most succeeded in drinking the night away.
None, admittedly, with even the faintest inkling of a war now looming.
Almost every travelling journalist took one side or the other in that war, some even coming close to blows on subsequent nights out in Izumo and Chiba. You were either a Mick man or a Roy man. In 2002, to be open-minded was to be, well, peculiar.
To begin with, Brian Kerr - Mick's replacement - represented a unifying force. His coronation in the Shelbourne Hotel delighted journalists so accustomed to his warm, light-touch charisma in charge of winning under-age teams alongside his equally likeable assistant, Noel O'Reilly.
But Kerr's time as senior manager changed him. Maybe the early discovery that he could expect little support from his employers contributed towards him becoming guarded and reticent at press conferences. But those conferences fell into a kind of deadening routine of reciprocal hostility and sometimes, from the media's side, unseemly sarcasm.
His penultimate game as Ireland manager was a World Cup qualifier against Cyprus in October '05, little more than two-and-a-half years after the Shelbourne. On the eve of that game in Nicosia, the first question asked of Kerr at his pre-match press-conference was: "Feel lucky Brian?"
You just knew then that this was over.
Bobby Robson, though ailing, was a subsequent joy to engage with as Steve Staunton's riotously over-qualified assistant. For a man so exposed to the viciousness of the English media, Robson's simple love of football seemed to over-ride any wariness that he might have harboured of encountering a reprise from the Irish equivalent. Hence volunteering himself for 'Liveline' and what became an often ignorant barrage of discord the day after an injury-time goal was needed to see off San Marino in Serravalle.
Not long after Staunton's appointment, I ended a one-to-one interview with him by counselling against the trap of interpreting criticism too personally. You didn't need a psychoanalyst's intuition to realise that 'Stan's' short fuse could be a liability in the manager's chair.
The following day, in just his third game as manager, Ireland lost a Dublin friendly to Holland 4-0. Two months later, they were humiliated 5-2 by Cyprus in Nicosia.
That game was a Euro qualifier and, thereafter, Staunton's credibility lay essentially in ruins. After drawing the return leg 1-1 in Dublin one year later, he was back looking for a job.
Language difficulties meant that Giovanni Trapattoni's time as manager rolled by without lasting media friendships building. Trap had no need for them in any event. His CV would be his flak-jacket against grumbles.
O'Neill became the opposite, combative, over-sensitive, instinctively sarcastic whenever media questioning veered towards tactics. Keane, as assistant, accordingly proved a regular and welcome distraction, "the werewolf of Manchester" as O'Neill called him on the eve of Ireland's Euro 2016 clash with Belgium in Bordeaux.
But the unprecedented focus on a number two always felt a little unhealthy, even perverse at times. The impression with O'Neill was that he himself had little patience for engagement of any depth with the Irish media. Until that Sunday Independent interview in 2016, his only one-to-one print interviews as Ireland manager had been with English newspapers.
In media terms at least, his heart always seemed that side of the Irish Sea.
Despite being a World Cup winner, Jack Charlton never brought that attitude. To begin with, he was undeniably lucky, inheriting a fine team from Eoin Hand that had previously been the victim of some rancid officiating. He had also, of course, been gifted Gary Mackay's improbable winner for Scotland in Sofia.
But, for ten years, Jack completely immersed himself in the Irish experience. In '94, the day of that famous victory over Italy, he famously broke away from the celebrations to remonstrate with security who had pushed two pitch-invading supporters face-down in the grass.
One of the supporters was bleeding from the face as Jack intervened. "I asked the policeman to give them a break, not to be so rough with them," he told me during that interview four days later, the two of us sipping pints in his room.
"I said they're not bloody assassins here to murder anybody. They're just a couple of football fans who came on the field 'cos they were happy. They need to realise football fans aren't all lunatics."
In the space of a few weeks, Charlton's Ireland had now beaten Holland, Germany and Italy in quick succession. They were ranked ninth in the world. It was the best of times when nothing felt beyond them.