As preparations for some piffling competition in Russia reached their final stages, emotions ran high at the iconic Stadio del Dominico on Thursday afternoon, as the internationally-renowned Claddagh World Cup reached its final stage.
After weeks of intense competition, only Iceland and Croatia remained in the competition, and the crowd at the packed Stadio was in a state of near-deafening excitement at the prospect of this momentous clash.
But, dashing such great expectations, this encounter was destined to be a one-sided battle: Despite valiant efforts and determination bordering on heroism, the Icelandic side was hopelessly outgunned from the start.
Within seconds of the first whistle, Croatia's Aleksej Dugic hammered home the first goal for the Balkan side. Iceland battled hard to stop this momentum, but to no avail - the Croatians netted another two before the half-time whistle.
After a spirited game between present and past-pupils of the school, the finalists trooped out once again after the break. The Croatian players could smell victory, and their noses were not lying.
A sense of inevitability hung over this second half, as Croatia, powered on by the unstoppable Dugic, continued to add to its tally, and Iceland fought in vain to contain its opponents' advance.
Icelandic warriors Matthew Golding and Conor O'Sullivan deserve a special mention here. With defeat looming, these two could easily have let their obvious frustration and disappointment get the better of them, but both showed tremendous maturity in maintaining their composure and fighting fairly right through to the final whistle. This was true grit, and both can be rightly proud of themselves.
Such fine examples of self-control would have been well heeded by those on the Croatian side, who sometimes let themselves down with overly-dramatic and childish displays of goggle-eyed arm-waving and foolish finger-wagging. Such over-acting might fit well in a school pantomime, but has no place on any field of sport.
Full time left the Croatians as indisputable champions with a score of 6-0, and the Icelandic players dejected in defeat, but with their honour well and truly intact.
Special mention must go, too, to the sporting spirit of the supporters, who cheered both victors and vanquished equally as they lined out for the presentations.
Thus, as FIFAC (Féderation Internationale de Football Association - Claddagh) President Mr. Greg Rogers presented trophy and medal to the champions, another chapter in the exciting history of the Claddagh World Cup drew to a close. Preparations for the 2019 competition are already, no doubt, underway.
Croatia: Aleksej Dugic, Melanie Varga, Alan Feeney, Junior Kelly-Kennedy, Marlena Klimko.
Iceland: Matthew Golding, Zoe Flaherty, Conor O'Sullivan, Kirsten Willock, Evan McDonagh.