Ireland's breath-taking win at Lansdowne Road was manager Mick McCarthy's triumph. World Cup success on a memorable day owed much to the efforts of many but, amidst the tumult of victory, the achievement of one man was highlighted in It illuminated his joyous celebration at the final whistle; his emotional embrace with the chivalrous Niall Quinn, his sweeping gesture of affiliation with the fans, the Summer bloom of his smile.
This was Mick McCarthy celebrating release from five years of incarceration, five years of toiling with the inflated expectations of a demanding nation, five years of tribulation when heartbreaking ill-luck was regularly condemned by critics who now laud him as incompetent.
Nobody deserved to enjoy this hour of triumph more than McCarthy. He has presided over the transition of the team from one glorious generation to the next in exemplary fashion. He showed sensitivity and patience when he introduced the once fragile talents of Ian Harte, Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, Kevin Kilbane and Damien Duff. He displayed instinctive good judgement when identifying Mark Kinsella, Matt Holland, Steve Finnan as internationals. Above all, he showed an astute awareness of the strong qualities that resided within the formidable frames of his warrior-class - Roy Keane, Steve Staunton, McAteer, Gary Kelly, Niall Quinn.
This is why Ireland's win was McCarthy's triumph. For this success over capable, talented and confident opponents was a testament to the level of team spirit within the group. It was an endorsement of the manager's ability to engender a unity of purpose and a collective strength that was inspiring. It was vindication of his stewardship.
The after-glow of the emotional climax at Lansdowne still lingered when McCarthy yesterday reviewed the events of an extraordinary day and a chapter in Ireland's unfolding football story that tested credibility. Netherlands, lest you forget, were third in the European Championship last year and Ireland beat them while playing with ten men for 30 minutes!
McCarthy's pride was obvious when he praised his squad. "I wasn't worried. I know how cruel this game can be and I never doubted that everyone would give of his best and that is as much as we can expect. I know we rode our luck at times but it is about time we got some breaks.
"We were 15 seconds from qualifying for the European Championships when we lost a goal in Macedonia and that hurt, so whatever we got in this campaign was no more than our due."
McCarthy's contract with the FAI will expire at the end of this championship and he shook his head at the irony of the situation when he reviewed the unlikely events that launched him, at a ridiculously early age, on his career with Ireland: "Perhaps I should not have been appointed because of my lack of experience, but I was the best of those who applied. There are some, like Joe Kinnear, who claim they applied at the time but they didn't and I know I was the best of the candidates who did. I know now I am a better manager than I was when I took the job, I've gained experience. I love my job and I love working with a group of players who are very special but whether I continue or not is out of my hands, that is up to others.
"All I know is that I want to continue but what this team has done is given me an option. They have done brilliantly for me and they deserve everything they get from this World Cup because, whatever it is they achieve, they have done the work, they have put in the effort."
This win ensured that Ireland will, at least, be involved in a play-off with opponents from Asia for a place in the finals next year in Korea/Japan. They are currently top of the table and will go through automatically if they beat Cyprus in Dublin and Portugal slip up in the meantime.
Cyprus play Portugal on Wednesday and said McCarthy; "This win puts a little more pressure on Portugal in Cyprus. Had we drawn then they would have been cruising but now they know they need to win because we are on their heels.
"Our result makes Wednesday's match that much more interesting and, if we are to finish on top, it has to happen then, for I cannot see Portugal dropping points in their other matches at home."
The story of an afternoon of extraordinary emotion was told in the almost symbolic sequence right at the final whistle. Netherlands, squeezing a beleaguered Ireland into a tiny fraction of the pitch on the edge of their penalty area lined up shots on goal as in a showground coconut shy stall.
Giovanni van Bronkhorst wound up deliberately before powering a shot at goal from 25 yards. Richard Dunne, calm and serene as ever, simply stepped into the flight of the ball and volleyed it over half-way. His gesture, his demeanour, his attitude was unmistakable; Not an inch.
It said it all about this Irish performance that owed everything to the collective pride, determination and courage of the team. Of course, there were some individuals who excelled and foremost amongst those were Steve Staunton, Jason McAteer and Damien Duff. Roy Keane was masterful in midfield, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane outstanding.
McAteer claimed the goal when Ireland were down to ten men, crashing home a volley from Finnan's cross after 68 minutes. Gary Kelly was unlucky in such a competitive atmosphere to attract two yellow cards and, of course, the consequent red one in the 58th minute.