The Republic of Ireland have experienced huge highs as well as earth-shattering lows in their previous play-offs.
They have been involved in eight and only won three, qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.
Another play-off date lies ahead as Ireland head to Copenhagen to take on Denmark this weekend looking for a positive result to take back to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday.
The play-offs are huge, not only for the Republic of Ireland’s hopes of spending next summer in Russia, but also for players on the fringes of Martin O’Neill’s squad hoping to assure the Derry man that they can be key to his plans should they reach the World Cup.
One such man – Callum O’Dowda – grabbed his opportunity against Moldova last month following the suspension of both James McClean and Robbie Brady.
He impressed greatly as Ireland picked up the three points they needed to head into the massive clash in Cardiff knowing a win over Wales would be enough.
His performance for Ireland coincided with his recent impressive form for Championship side Bristol City. The attacker has starred for Lee Johnson’s side of late, helping the club rise to fourth in the Championship as they look forward to the visit of Manchester United in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup next month.
For now the former Oxford United man is fully focused on five crucial days with the Republic of Ireland that will shape his summer plans for 2018.
As reported in the Irish Independent, the 22-year-old spoke of his start against Moldova and the rise in his development since, that saw him score his first league goal for his club last weekend.
“Since that game I’ve had a lot of praise from the management both for club and country. In the last few games I’ve made a real impact with goals and assists. And that’s what I want to be doing.
“As soon as I got back to club level, I felt bigger, stronger. That’s what I wanted to do, make a real impact in the Championship.
“It’s more about confidence in attack. You try more things: if you look at the Palace goal, the way it came to me, it was just instinct to take a touch and volley it in.
“That’s what confidence does. You’re not afraid to do stuff. The safe option is there but it’s (about) taking a few risks and not caring if it doesn’t come off.”
O’Dowda is unlikely to start this weekend but O’Neill knows he has a player on the bench that can provide pace and power to the attack, and given his recent form the player will be eager to continue his impressive form.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena