Ireland’s performance at the European Championships in Poland was a harsh reality.
But a review of the players decline in the squad brings forth a reality even harsher.
Talk of retirements usually surface after era ending markers such as this.
The big 5 getting a constant mention at the moment.
Shay Given in goal had an extremely poor tournament by his own highest of standards.
Always considered one of the top keepers in the English Premier League, if never the top, his decline in form has coincided with father time and his inability to recover sufficiently from ever increasing injuries.
The first signs came when Shay finally landed himself at a big club only to find after 1 season, he was demoted to the reserves to allow the returning Joe Hart claim first choice.
His decline cemented when he sealed his transfer to Aston Villa a year later.
While Manchester City were being crowned champions of England last month - Shay had to look back on a season that saw his new team finish 16th.
The same team of course, in which Richard Dunne played.
Similar to Shay, when Man City started getting big, they realised they could afford to bring in whoever they wanted.
Despite 4 player of the season awards at the Ethiad in a row, it wasn’t long before Richard was replaced with players the calibre of Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure.
Much like Ireland in Poland - he never stood a chance.
Damian Duff was once a diamond in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea dynasty.
Valued as high as €17 at one stage - it wasn’t long before he took a step down too.
The dizzying heights of Champions League football and Premier League titles were replaced with relegation involving Newcastle and his current spell at the never threatening Fulham.
John O’Shea spent 12 seasons at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
11 major honours in total - including the Champions League.
Only 3 Irish players have ever won more.
Yet last summer it was pastures new for John and the not so dizzying heights of the Stadium of Light.
And of course, our Captain and talisman, Robbie Keane.
After finding his home at White Hart Lane, one last big money move looked on the cards when Liverpool came calling.
But after only 4 months at Anfield, it was back to Tottenham and soon a drop further to West Ham on loan in double quick time.
For the amount of goals Robbie has got in the Premier League over the years, it’s tough to think our greatest goal threat is spending his early 30’s in the less than impressive Major League.
Outside the senior 5 there are plenty of examples of decline in the Irish squad too.
With the exception of Aiden McGeady, most of the squad are in worse shape than they were when Giovanni took over.
Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt and Stephen Ward will all begin next season in the Championship with Wolves.
Kevin had been linked with Arsenal not so long ago.
Sean St. Ledger has gone from promising young defender on the cusp of the Premier League to a Championship regular.
Keith Andrews has had a lot of ups and downs in the past 3 seasons culminating in him currently being without a club.
And the reserves don’t fare off much better either.
Kieron Westwood has gone from being in the Championship team of the year 2 seasons in a row to warming the bench of Sunderland.
Paul McShane has dropped out of the top flight.
Darren O’Dea and Paul Green are both unattached.
And Darron Gibson followed John out the Old Trafford door.
It could be argued that Shane Long, Glen Whelan and Jon Walters have improved.
But in truth, their talents have - their club status has remained the same.
That just leaves us with the young James McClean, who could do nothing but rise if he was to make the squad.
And it is with this youth that the next campaign may lye.
So many of this squads are no longer heading skyward - with this summers Championships seen as one of their peaks.
2 years from now when Brazil comes around, it’s hard to see many of the squad being in a better position.
But perhaps it is this reason alone that Giovanni should look for new blood.
The next generation are already looking better off than they were when Giovanni took over.
James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark to name a few.
Indeed Brazil in 2014 might be a peak for some of these players.
Let’s just hope it’s not their highest peak...