… despite being denied so much inspirational material in the months ahead.  Ireland’s 1-0 defeat to France in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier playoff Saturday left the ROI facing very long odds prior to Wednesday’s 2nd leg in Paris, while Scotland’s 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Wales meant the end of George Burley’s managerial tenureThe Guardian’s Barney Ronay surveyed both developments with no small amount of cynical glee.

“That was certainly Plan A,” Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews said this morning, fiddling with his metallic-green 1970s overhead projector and trying to make the words: “Lose 1-0 at home” go away. “But we have moved on to Plan B now.” Which will come as a relief to anyone with any doubts that the Republic might actually end up at the World Cup next year. Although it has to be said the details of Plan B are still slightly sketchy. “If we win 1-0 over there, then obviously, it’s job done. It goes to extra-time and we would be happy with that,” Andrews explained, simultaneously sketching out the lyrics to his sombrero-clad, coconut-waggling We’re On Our Way To Extra Time In a World Cup Qualifying Play-Off hit song feat. Enya and the fat one from Westlife.

But still, there is some good news for Ireland: at least they’re not Scotland, for whom the international weekend provided another step forward in the SFA’s 18-month plan to agonisingly sack George Burley. Next up is a meeting this week at which George Burley may or may not be sacked, but only after much chin-stroking consideration of the words “three wins in 14 matches” plus expert evidence on whether this is (a) good, or (b) not very good. Still, it’s not all bad. As of today smouldering one-man walking cafeteria bust-up Graeme Souness has “ruled himself out” of the running for the non-vacant post.

“If [being agonisingly sacked by the SFA] was up for grabs, I wouldn’t be applying for it. My life is going in a different direction,” he explained, being very slowly dragged out of sight by a small forklift truck.