A good night for Ireland – and a winning one for the fans

It ended in a scoreless draw, but the capacity crowd got plenty of entertainment

If fortune favours the brave, then Stephen Kenny should try his luck in the midweek lotto.

The chances are he would throw a chunk of his winnings into Irish football anyway. He is an evangelist.

Kenny's purist vision for the Republic of Ireland football team played Portugal in front of its first full house on Thursday night.

We had forgotten what these raucous football nights around Lansdowne are like.

Ireland without a crowd may not be like Beethoven without his piano. But it is like AC/DC without amplifiers. You don’t get the full effect.

It returned to the Aviva stadium on an evening when Kenny’s Ireland, crowded with kids and a few veterans, continued to glory in their manager’s imprimatur to go play: to perform with heads-up flair and imagination and to hell with the doubters. It finished 0-0 but the people loved it.

In addition, the people got to bait one of the most decorated footballers in the history of the game.

Loudly booed

From the first whistle, Cristiano Ronaldo was loudly, lustily and ingloriously booed every time he took possession of the ball and several times when he didn't. He picked up a collection of bruises from Irish defenders.

For such a compelling figure, he has a genius for making himself invisible at the right moment. Twice he came close to inflicting more pain on Ireland, with his 66th minute header – a snapshot of his splendour in the air – fizzing past Gavin Bazunu’s goal.

But Ireland, outplayed at times and harried at others, stayed true to the new faith and gradually turned the night.

In the 82nd minute, Portugal's veteran Pepe was red-carded for a rash challenge on the irrepressible Callum Robinson.

You should have heard the crowd, then, the night in borrowed time, Ireland pressing after Matt Doherty’s disallowed goal. They didn’t want it to end.

At the last whistle, a little girl broke through security and managed to reach Ronaldo for a hug. He handed her his shirt and walked away to a huge cheer.

It was a sweet moment on a good night for Kenny’s Ireland. All left happy.