Let’s not beat around the bush.

There was more than an element of envy as we watched the world's footballing family head to Moscow for the recent World Cup draw.

The deserving 32 countries were, of course, represented, the rest, Ireland included, looked on, thinking of what might have been.

Not just Ireland, mind you. Perennial, or quadrennial - to give it the Google-confirmed, correct name - participants Italy missed out, while there is no place for the USA, the Netherlands nor, of course, our friends from the north.

Fast forward six months from now and with the major European leagues and Champions League drawing to a close, there will be huge excitement for the month-long tournament.

For 2018, of course is a World Cup year and the festival of football arrives in Russia on 14 June as 32 teams battle it out for the most coveted trophy in world sport.

The no-doubt, spectacular opening ceremony will mask the fact that the tournament opener is set to be a real dud of a fixture as the hosts open with a fairly facile encounter against Saudi Arabia.

But the first of the big games comes just 24 hours later as the European champions take on the 2010 World Cup winners in the battle of Iberia where Portugal face Spain.

Fourteen further days of football gluttony follows with no fewer than three games a day, while five of those days have four matches taking place.

The last game of the knock-out stages sees England come up against the much-fancied Belgians with the group winner’s spot set to be up for grabs, unless Panama or Tunisia can cause a shock or two.

The tournament ‘proper’ only gets going on 30 June with virtually all of the favourites likely to make it through to the Round of 16.

Germany are defending their title and will, no doubt, be in the mix at the business end of the tournament. But perhaps this year, it might be the South American contingent who can go one step better.

Brazil look the best unit from that region, and while the sight of Lionel Messi hoisting that most magnificent trophy on 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow would soothe many a footballing soul, the chances are just a little slim.

Meanwhile, Ireland cannot even look forward to starting their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in 2018 as the new UEFA format sees the introduction of the Nations League with all the qualifiers taking place throughout the 2019 calendar year.

In fact, Ireland will not even play a competitive fixture until next September with just two token friendlies on the calendar thus far as Martin O’Neill’s side travel to Turkey in March before a pre-World Cup warm-up for France in May.

The Irish team will be looking to put the horror show of the 5-1 defeat to Denmark to bed and what better way than a March training camp at the Turkish resort of Antalya, where the resorts many golf courses will no doubt play their part in restoring the spirit and building bonds.

The inaugural Nations League kicks off in September where Ireland will be in a group with any of the following teams - Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey.

So as the men's senior side lick their wounds, the Republic of Ireland Women have a great chance to steel the limelight as they attempt to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

Colin Bell’s side put in a remarkable performance against the much-fancied Dutch, drawing 0-0 to sit joint top of the table, and now have three home games to look forward to before the summer.

The SSE Airtricity League returns from its hibernation a bit earlier in 2018 as the Premier Division kicks off on 16 February.

Cork City and Dundalk will be the two to beat again next season, however, the FAI have gone for a blood and thunder opener as Bohemians host Shamrock Rovers on the opening day, which should certainly light the touch paper for the season ahead.

The last strains of Auld Lang Syne are not yet upon us, yet the top flights in England and Scotland already look a done deal at the mid-way stage of the season.

Manchester City and Celtic look odds-on to land their respective titles with the next few months no more than a procession of sorts.

The Champions League, however, should prove a much more interesting affair in the New Year with 16 of the top clubs in Europe set to battle for a place in the final in Kiev.

The big games are coming thick and fast in February as Tottenham must take on Juventus, Chelsea meet Barcelona and Real Madrid are paired with PSG.

Five English teams remain in the competition with Manchester City the real eye-catching side at the moment and Pep Guardiola’s side must be eyeing that first ever Champions League trophy.