There's something about Jamie McGrath getting a telling off by the referee for being too close to the line of the box at a goal-kick, that makes you revel as a fan.
As Portugal's Rui Patricio and Pepe were raring to play it out from the back, McGrath wasn't letting them get comfortable. Stubbornly aligning himself just short of the penalty area, it was clear he was going to pounce on them.
This was something Dundalk manager Vinny Perth noted on the OTBAM show on Friday that previous Ireland squads wouldn't have dreamt of doing.
"They weren't doing the typical Irish thing from the past few years, where everyone dropping off and letting Portugal have it," says Perth.
"Instead, they were right in their face. They were pressurising them. They weren't letting them settle. And that's real bravery in so many different departments" Perth continued.
🗣️ We're seeing the emergence of a really strong team
Dundalk boss Vinny Perth thinks last night's performance against Portugal has boosted Stephen Kenny's chances of getting a new contract #OTBAM with @gilletteuk | #BestFaceForward
Full chat - https://t.co/LGdNdnxzIg pic.twitter.com/2deDCYa0j0
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) November 12, 2021
If you had said six months ago that Ireland would draw at home with Portugal, not many would believe you.
In front of a packed Aviva Stadium, Ireland not only got a result, but impressed the 50,000 fans watching from the stands.
Despite the obvious superior talent Portugal possesses, Ireland nearly almost matched Portugal in every department. We shared the same amount of shots, tiki-taka-ed 444 passes with a passing accuracy of 79%. Ronaldo even got thrown around; it was brilliant.
These are all encouraging outcomes to see against one of the best teams in the world. But of course, what matters most is getting the ball in the net.
"You can tell the staff have a real understanding of where this team is going. You can tell there are patterns of play building. But, whether people like it or not, the hardest part is the final part, in the final third," says Perth.
It's clear Kenny has built a foundation of courage within this Irish side. Players like Chiedozie Ogbene, Josh Cullen, McGrath, all showed moments of real tenacity yesterday.
"The development of people like Josh Cullen is absolutely outstanding. He was someone I doubted how good he was. And I looked at him last night and thought he was the best player on the pitch" says Perth.
Even players like Hendrick, Robinson and Doherty, who had been written off in the past, have come to life in recent games.
While it might not be totally Kenny's doing, more senior players have also experienced a rejuvenation. Shane Duffy hadn't the best season up in Celtic, but now back at Brighton and in the Ireland squad, he looks a totally different player.
"If you look at the development of this side, there’s no doubt we have developed a team. The manager has done an outstanding job in that sense" says Perth.
Despite last night's performances, there are still sceptics about Kenny's ability to manage the Ireland side. But simultaneously, that bandwagon is dwindling.
A win is needed, and a win is deserved. And with Luxembourg being the denouement of this frustrating World Cup qualifying campaign, the motivation is there that the chapter is not over for Stephen Kenny.
"Yes it’s a results business. But the results have now started to turn. We can’t argue with the development of this side," says Perth.
"I think it would be foolish of the FAI not go and back this project" Perth concluded.