It's oddly deflating that Dundalk's monumental journey in the Europa League - one of the greatest achievements in the history of Irish sport, regardless of tonight's result - might have to continue minus two of the stars who have played such an enormous role throughout.
Yesterday reports emerged in the Irish Sun that Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle are set to join Championship outfit Preston North End in January, meaning that were Dundalk to progress to the knockout stages of the competition in Israel tonight, they would enter the business end of the tournament at least two stars shy. Such impending movements beg the question as to how Horgan, Boyle, Stephen Kenny and his entire squad can mentally prepare for a game of such magnitude.
Speaking from Tel Aviv on the new episode of The Balls.ie Football Show, RTÉ's football correspondent Tony O'Donoghue all-but confirmed yesterday's reports that the supremely-talented duo are off to England, and explained that, having spoken with Dundalk boss Kenny, it was clear he was going to use their upcoming departure to galvanise his side in what will likely be their final game together as a collective:
I think they're gone.
I just spoke to Stephen Kenny a short time ago, actually, and that's another little factor that I think he's going to use as part of rising the emotional temperature.
This is a very special group of players, and this is their last hurrah together, probably - this match. Horgan and Boyle I think, certainly. Maybe even one or two more.
The bond that they've had, the joys that they've shared... They've one last opportunity to do something very, very special.
When it emerged that Boyle and Horgan would likely be heading across the Irish Sea in the new year, some fans questioned as to whether they could be loaned back for the latter stages were Dundalk to progress against Maccabi Tel-Aviv tonight.
O'Donoghue, however, claimed that the transfers would be for keeps; Preston are signing these players to play, not as projects. O'Donoghue did however suggest that the Lancashire club is the right move for both parties, as Horgan and Boyle look to further establish themselves in Martin O'Neill's Ireland setup:
I don't think [a loan back] is likely. If they're to go, they're to go. And I think going to a club like Preston, rather than going to a place like Newcastle, I think they'll probably be in the team almost straight away.
That would be an important and more significant move for them, and obviously would help their international chances as well. They've already been in the squad, and if they can get playing regularly for Preston, who's to say they won't be in the next squad and pushing for a place in the starting eleven in the next campaign?
It promises to be an emotionally-charged evening in Tel Aviv, and one which though it won't define this Dundalk outfit, whose legacy is already cemented, will certainly bolster the mythology of an indisputably special squad of players.
You can listen to Tony O'Donoghue's full chat - including some mega yarns from Cork City vs Bayern Munich in '91, and his relationship with Martin O'Neill - on The Balls.ie Football Show below.