NATIONAL LEAGUE/Emmet Malone's column: So the waiting is over, and 16 years after Pat Byrne last represented the Republic, the league here has finally had another player recognised at senior international level.
Though he had made it clear a couple of months back that he felt several players based here were worthy of consideration, the senior manager, Don Givens, deserves a good deal of credit for not simply playing it safe when the decision was finally his to make.
There have been many occasions during the past decade and a half when, despite the fact that either Jack Charlton or Mick McCarthy were struggling to get a full squad together, no one from the eircom League seemed to warrant serious consideration.
Increasingly, it was hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that it would take the appointment of someone with a strong connection to the league - Brian Kerr being the obvious candidate - before things would change. But Givens, despite having played all of his club football abroad, took the plunge and the hope is that his name won't be the answer to some pub quiz question about the last manager to cap a locally-based player another 16 years down the line.
Glen Crowe's performance on the night was, like just about everything else about last Wednesday's game in Athens, fairly subdued.
And it is, of course, a pity that the Bohemians striker didn't take one of the couple of chances that came his way during the first 12 minutes.
But on balance it's probably more important that the 24-year-old didn't look remotely out of his depth in the game, and he clearly didn't.
In fact, the most disappointing aspect of Crowe's involvement with the squad was his admission, when asked before the game about his impressions of the international set-up, that the training facilities, particularly the pitches, were so much better than those he has grown used to at club level.
It appears that, for all the progress made in recent years, there is still quite some way to go even at the country's best clubs.
His cap, though, and the remarks of Givens the next morning may yet prove to be of limited significance in terms of the broader issue of the league's ability to win recognition at senior level on a regular basis.
Apart from the obvious possibility that any player threatening to play in the Irish team on a regular basis would almost certainly be the subject of a bid from England big enough to lure him away, the next full-time manager may not rate Crowe or, for that mater, anyone else from the game here.
Ensuring that the new man at least familiarises himself with the options on this side of the Irish sea, however, is something the FAI should take care to look after at the job description stage.
Despite Crowe's cap, meanwhile, last week was far from being a triumph for the league with Drogheda United unfortunately breaking the run of - well, what is it now, several months? - since a club ran into serious financial difficulty.
Talks to resolve the situation at United Park are due to continue over the next couple of days, and the hope is that the money needed to pay the players will be found.
One of the causes of the current difficulties at United was the failure of a number of fund-raising events at the club. Like every other club in the league, the Premier Division outfit is hugely reliant on ventures like quiz nights, raffles, golf outings and the like, because gate receipts do not come close to providing the funds required to operate competitively at this level.
Only yesterday Waterford United announced their Christmas bash on December 16th will feature Tony Cascarino and Andy Townsend as guest speakers, and such events, often with former internationals as the main attraction, are a regular feature of the endless fund-raising drives that clubs here must involve themselves in.
With their ground so badly damaged by the recent floods, Shelbourne's need is much greater than most and they too have unveiled their Christmas line-up.
The club is running two lunches in mid December - one with Mick McCarthy, the other with Niall Quinn. More remarkably, the compere for both is "Mr Comedy Himself. The One And Only": Bernard Manning.
QUITE what either of the speakers will make of finding themselves on a bill with Manning remains to be seen, but if he goes through with the engagement then it may well be worth going along just to witness the banter between Quinn and Britain's most gleefully controversial comedian.
His humour is, of course, a matter of taste and some fairly unlikely characters believe he is unfairly characterised by the media - the Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson, for instance, has described his routine as "lancing the boil of prejudice and allowing the pus to run free".
For some of us, though, Manning's line in humour is tired, dated and more than a little racist, and to discover that he is one of the star attractions on a league club's Christmas bash comes as a bit of a shock.
It does, however, seem bizarre that Manning's two dates are scheduled for about the same time as the league uses its next televised game to launch a joint venture with the Government-funded Know Racism campaign.
The league, as it happens, is getting some €20,000 from the campaign, but even before this initiative was conceived it would have seemed entirely reasonable to suggest that under its previously published anti-racism policy one could justifiably call for Manning to be ejected from a ground if he shouted out a couple of his jokes while attending a game. At the Berkeley Court, though, where the tickets cost €150 each, he'll be the star of the show. Funny, innit.