• Republic of Ireland 1-0 Bosnia Herzegovina
Aiden McGeady had heard the sniping from Roy Keane and Andy Townsend, both of whom reckon that the winger ought not be assured of a place in the Ireland team. McGeady had also digested a morsel of advice from the football consultant at his club, Spartak Moscow, who suggested he needed to see a psychologist.
When McGeady came on as a half-time substitute in Ireland's final home game before Euro 2012, however, it was not the old stagers who concerned him. James McClean had thrilled in his stead during the opening 45 minutes of his full debut. The gauntlet had been thrown down.
McGeady's response was emphatic. With his first touch he stretched to steer a volley against a post and he went on to create four clear-cut chances, including the one that was converted decisively by another substitute, Shane Long.
Giovanni Trapattoni had reasons to be cheerful, ranging from McClean's dynamic start to the performances of the back-ups, most notably Darron Gibson, Long and Jon Walters. He could also revel in the result that stretched Ireland's unbeaten run to 13 matches. But it was McGeady's tour de force that stole the show. To a confidence player, though, the tonic will be fortifying.
"McGeady is in a very good moment," Trapattoni said before he boarded the Pisa flight with his squad for a week-long training camp in Montecatini. "Two years ago he was good but he was young. Now he plays with maturity. His confidence and his personality have improved."
Not everybody agrees. McGeady finished the season strongly and he was Spartak's hero on the final day when he crossed for the goals in the 2-0 derby win over Lokomotiv that secured Champions League qualification. But he had struggled for form earlier in the campaign.
Oleg Romantsev's comments last month had been rooted in the belief that McGeady's performances were not good enough and that a psychological obstacle might have to be removed, while Townsend focused on the notion of inconsistency. "It is a toss of a coin whether McGeady turns up or whether he doesn't," Ireland's former captain had said.
Keane, who also wore the Ireland armband, had advanced McClean's claims, noting that the Sunderland player has better shooting accuracy and a higher goals-to-games ratio than McGeady and the other first-choice winger, Damien Duff. He suggested that McGeady and Duff had lapsed into a comfort zone, with their places in the starting XI guaranteed and after referencing McGeady's "difficult spell in Russia", he stated that "you've got to think his Ireland place should be at risk".
McGeady had already shrugged of Keane's remarks. "I played with him at Celtic and that was bad enough," he said. But Trapattoni also weighed in on his player's behalf. "The first thing is that maybe they don't follow the Russian league," the manager said. "And secondly … I played football and I wish to ask them: From the moment that they were born, did they play beautifully in every game? I don't feel the need to answer to these ex-players. Roy Keane, I know, but the other …"
Trapattoni was more concerned with fitness issues. He was forced to rule out Keith Fahey on Saturday because of a groin injury and replace him with Paul Green, a more combative midfielder who might be useful, he said, against Spain in the second group tie.
But he continues to worry about John O'Shea, the right-back who has an ankle problem and will not train until Wednesday. Trapattoni said that O'Shea had to play in the final warm-up fixture against Hungary in Budapest on Monday week or face being replaced. Paul McShane has travelled with the squad and is ready to step in. Kevin Foley, another right-back, is also struggling with hamstring trouble. "O'Shea has assured me that he can be ready," Trapattoni said. "But in Hungary, he must play."
Shay Given, the remaining concern, has sounded an upbeat note. The goalkeeper, who has not trained since he hurt a knee last Monday and is not scheduled to return until Wednesday, insisted that he would be "fine". He said: "If the Euros had have started on Saturday I could have played so I'm not worried. It's just bad timing."