Alas, automatic qualification for next summer Euros was not to be for the Republic of Ireland U21s.
Jim Crawford's side entered the game against Italy this afternoon knowing that a victory would ensure that they finish top of the group and reserve a place at next summer's finals in Romania and Georgia.
However, it would prove to be a fairly comfortable for the Italians. A couple of first half errors gave them a 2-0 lead at the interval, with Nicolo Rovella's penalty quickly followed up by a long range strike from Nicolo Cambiaghi.
Things would get worse directly after the interval, with Brian Maher and Mark McGuinness tangling at the back to allow the Italians to extend the lead.
Conor Coventry would get one back via the penalty spot on the hour mark, but that was to be as close as Ireland got.
Italy U-21 3-1 Republic of Ireland U-21 - Conor Coventry makes no mistake with his spot-kick, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. #IRLU21 #COYBIG
📱 Updates - https://t.co/29po2cHb4B
📺 Watch - https://t.co/NVrpaW23DL pic.twitter.com/JXyypmEiqj
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 14, 2022
Italy would score a fourth late on to run out as 4-1 winners.
While top spot was to be beyond their reach, Ireland did enter this fixture knowing that they were already assured of a place in the play-offs. It is the first time in the team's history they have reached such a stage.
They will now face into a two-legged tie this September, with the winners advancing to the tournament.
Here are the teams that they could face.
Who can Ireland U21s face in the play-offs?
Before this evening, all but a handful of teams in the play-offs had been confirmed.
With nine groups in qualifying for this tournament, the best second placed team out of all the groups will advance to the finals. The other eight will go into the play-offs, leaving Ireland with seven possible opponents.
Switzerland are the runners-up with the best record, although Denmark had a chance to overtake them. The Danes faced Turkey this evening, where a win by a four goal margin would have seen them qualify automatically. However, their 3-2 victory was not enough to go ahead of the Swiss.
The only other uncertainty came in 'Group A'.
Norway occupied second spot in that group heading into today, although they would finish top if they beat Azerbaijan at home this evening. Were that to happen, Croatia would drop into the play-offs. The Norwegians would win 2-1, condemning Croatia to the play-offs as a result.
As a result, here are the teams Ireland can play in the play-offs.
- Czech Republic
Most of the big names in European football have qualified for the tournament automatically, with Ireland likely to fancy their chances against a number of those sides.
The draw will take place in Switzerland one week from today, on June 21st. It will be unseeded, meaning Ireland can draw any of the teams above.
Considering their performances in this campaign so far, they certainly won't fear anybody that comes out of the pot.