Glenn Whelan pulled on an Ireland jersey for the 86th time on Tuesday. He did so four months after both he and the public thought he had done it for the last time.
Whelan left the pitch during a deary 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland to a standing ovation from the crowd believing he would not be selected again under Martin O'Neill. Just ten days later, O'Neill was gone and Mick McCarthy was in.
"I never retired," the 35-year-old said following Tuesday's win against Georgia.
Martin O’Neill at the time was going about his thing. I obviously understood that because I’m getting on in age. I’m very grateful to Martin. To then get the phone call from Mick to come back [was good].
It’s a privilege to come back and put the jersey on. In November I thought that was going to be the last time I’d ever do it. Like I said, to get the phone call to come back, there were no second questions. It was just like, ‘Yeah, get the tickets booked, I’m there.’
I didn’t know where I was going to stand, I didn’t know if it was just to be around the lads, pushing them. We’ve got a good few lads coming through that need that little bit of experience; if I can pass that on a little bit [it would be good]. There’s only about four of five of us who are in double figures. We’ve got some good lads coming through and they have to be given chances.
Whelan was standing beside Conor Hourihane when his Aston Villa teammate whipped a strike around the wall for the Irish winner last night.
He said that Shane Duffy's role in the goal, standing on the edge of the wall and then nudging it, was something which had been worked on in training. "But we don’t want you telling everybody!" Whelan joked to members of the media after the game.
"Shane is a big lad. Obviously, he was trying to block the goalkeeper’s view. Shane Duffy probably has one of the biggest heads in Ireland. He’d block out most things.
"I play with Conor week in, week out. Once he set the ball down, I knew something was going to happen. It was a fantastic piece of play. He’s just had a kid as well and everyone’s happy for him."
Just before the free kick was taken, tennis balls were thrown on the pitch by Irish fans protesting against how football is run by the FAI.
"Obviously, Conor’s gone on to score. So, hopefully, the next time we’ve got a free kick, they’ve all got their tennis balls," joked Whelan.
"The fans are disgruntled. They have a right to protest whatever way they want. We can only worry about the pitch.
"Six points, we gave the fans something to cheer about again. We’re trying to get everyone back onside a little bit. The last 12 months was difficult. Performances like that, especially first half, goals like that, get everyone going again.
"The new management crew have come in and given the lads a bit of a gee-up. We always go out there and try to do our best, it’s not as if we don’t. We were going through a bit of a sticky time."
Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile