In the bowels of the Aviva Stadium shellshocked young Northern Ireland players were wandering around.
Some were on the phone to loved ones, others were climbing aboard the team coach and a few had that vacant look that comes having suffered a right walloping.
The senior players, men like captain Gareth McAuley |(pictured with Robbie Keane), Steve Davis, Warren Feeney and Sammy Clingan walked through the mixed zone answering questions from reporters when the last thing they wanted to do was talk about what had just happened on the pitch.
We should praise the boys for that. Unlike international players from other countries that I’ve covered at least they fronted up after a truly humiliating defeat.
And at least they were there unlike many of their team-mates, who didn’t make the trip to Dublin meaning a patched up side containing several kids, took on the Republic of Ireland, who while nowhere near full strength themselves obviously have a far superior squad to choose from that Nigel Worthington.
McAuley and his mates were honest in their assessment of the 5-0 hammering, admitting they were architects of their own downfall stating that sloppy mistakes led to the Republic’s fistful of goals.
Trying desperately hard to find positives the experienced lads hoped the kids would learn something.
Going on the theory that the bigger the beating the more you learn, Northern Ireland should have some of the most well educated young footballers on the planet after Tuesday night, because make no mistake about it this was a highly embarrassing, error strewn display.
Northern Ireland were fortunate to get away with 5-0.
Once they went a goal down, heads dropped in Worthington’s side though sadly the mistake count increased.
It was appaling for the 210 Northern Ireland fans in attendance, and those at home watching on TV, to see their fierce rivals ease to such a comfortable victory.
There may not have been Euro 2012 qualifying points at stake, but there was pride. And we left the Aviva with none.
Some of the 210 supporters chanted “Nigel, Nigel, time to go” after the fifth Republic goal hit the net.
Patience is clearly wearing thin with Worthington, whose record of one win in the last 18 matches is dreadful.
Over half of them may have been friendlies and therefore his full team would not have always been available, but on a salary of £500,000 per year (the biggest ever paid out by the IFA to a manager) he needs to deliver much better than that.
Right now Nigel has a worse win percentage than Lawrie McMenemy and he was viewed as one of our worst managers ever.
You could say that our players simply aren’t good enough, but we’ve punched above our weight before and need to be inspired to do so again.
The next outing is against Wales tomorrow night in another Carling Nations Cup match. It’s a non-event.
If the north v south battle was a clash of the B teams, the Friday night extravaganza at the Aviva, which will be watched by a few hundred people, will be a C list affair.
Wales are so bad these days there is a chance our boys will win and that’s even without Davis and Clingan who have withdrawn through injury.
Nigel’s defining period as boss will begin in August at home to the Faroe Islands before more Euro qualifiers against Estonia (twice), Serbia and Italy.
Despite Northern Ireland’s failures in the last two years, they still have a chance of finishing Group C runners-up, earning a play-off.
If that is achieved, by all means offer Worthington a new contract, even if the play-off ends in defeat, but not before as some have ludicrously suggested. If not the Irish FA must consider if they are getting value for all that money.
I’d love to see Nigel deliver, because he’s a good bloke, but good blokes don’t always make great international managers. Look at Sammy McIlroy.
If what happened on the pitch on Tuesday was a nightmare, it was a similar scenario in the stands with such a tiny away support in the Aviva.
The IFA made a right mess of the ticketing and travel arrangements for the trip to Dublin, leading to a boycott from the Northern Ireland fans, who remain furious that the FAI continue to poach players from here, which doesn’t help Worthington.
The FAI further angered Northern Ireland followers on Tuesday by flying the Ulster flag (for the nine counties in the province) rather than the Northern Ireland one, before it was quickly changed.
And some of the Republic fans let themselves down by booing God Save The Queen as the visiting team’s anthem was played.
Last week the Irish people were cheering her.
This time they were jeering.
Old habits die hard...
All in all a depressing night.
The Irish FA are saying thank you to the 210 Northern Ireland fans who refused to boycott Tuesday night’s 5-0 hammering against the Republic of Ireland by handing them free tickets for tomorrow night’s final Carling Nations Cup game against Wales.