The last time the Republic of Ireland had one foot in the door of a major championship ended in agony for Stephen Carr.
That was back in November 1999 when Ireland faced Turkey over a two-leg play-off to for a place in Euro 2000. The sides drew 1-1 in the first leg in Dublin but disaster struck in the second leg as Carr was stretchered off with an ankle injury and a goalless draw sent Ireland packing.
They now go into Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Portugal sitting at the top of Group Two and knowing a victory will take them six points clear of the Portuguese with three matches remaining.
Carr reflected: "The last couple of times we’ve been unlucky not to qualify for European Championship and World Cup. Every player wants to play there.
"It would be unbelievable but I don’t want to think about it because there is a long way to go.
"You all want to play in these finals. It’s the same at club level - you want to play in the games that the likes of Liverpool, United are playing in. Hopefully we can get up there."
Ireland face a tricky trip to Estonia next week and Carr added: "These are vital games for us. You could say it’s make or break.
"It will be difficult. We got a good result against Portugal away but they were quality on that night and we were a shade lucky.
"We know it’s a massive task ahead of us.
"We’ve put ourselves in a great position to go onto the finals but there is a long way to go. We’ve got Holland again and Cyprus but we’ve given ourselves a great opportunity in a hard group."
Ireland are 13/8 to win the game with Carr 33/1 to open the scoring - click here for details.
Stephen Carr prepares for the World Cup crunch game against Portugal at Lansdowne Road on Saturday as the Republic of Ireland attempt to avoid the dreaded play-off route to major finals.