So what to make of a European Championship draw that has paired Northern Ireland not just with world champions Germany, but with highly-fancied Poland and the dangerous Ukrainians?
Well due to the vagaries of the seeding system, which basically ignored the achievements of Michael O’Neill’s men in topping their qualifying group, we were always on the proverbial hiding to nothing.
But mixing it with the best teams in the world is what it’s all about anyway and coming up against the likes of Thomas Muller and Poland’s Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski should inspire rather than provoke fear. At least Northern Ireland’s task is marginally less daunting than that facing the Republic. Martin O’Neill’s team are in the mandatory ‘Group of Death’, with matches against Belgium, the Italians and Zlatan Ibrahimović’s Sweden.
Let’s think positive. The mouthwatering but admittedly daunting clash with Germany is our third and final group fixture, meaning the two more winnable matches come first.
First up is Poland on Sunday, June 12 in Nice, the idyllic capital of the French Riviera, and a venue where you can fly direct from Belfast International. Get in quickly though, Easyjet are pricing an outward flight for more than £440 one-way for the day before the game!
The second fixture, against the Ukrainians in Lyon, certainly represents our best chance of a victory. Ukraine didn’t convince in qualifying and when you consider that Italy were also in the same pool, the draw could have been much worse.
Whatever the outcome of the first two matches, the last group fixture against Germany, at the iconic Parc des Princes in Paris, should be something to saviour. The 2014 World Cup winners aren’t invincible – the Republic beat them during the qualifiers – so there is nothing to fear for Michael O’Neill’s team.
The only problem now? Containing our excitement until the action begins on June 12.