And so we go to Denmark, with the mood all black.

The Republic of Ireland are a hard team to love right now. Their maiden Nations League campaign has been grim; a failure that's ended in relegation to League C with a game to spare. We'll be third seeds for the Euro 2020 draw now, and thus very likely to be housed in a daunting group. 

The year started under a cloud, Martin O'Neill's flirtations with Stoke City hardly helping to unify the camp after that World Cup play-off mauling against the Danes.

As we head for the tail end of 2018, that cloud has lingered and darkened. 

The results, and performances, have been consistently poor. Ireland have played eight games this year: Turkey (lost 1-0), France (lost 2-0), USA (won 2-1), Wales (lost 4-1), Poland (drew 1-1), Denmark (drew 0-0), Wales (lost 1-0), and Northern Ireland (drew 0-0).

Four goals, three of them in friendlies, the other a consolation in the chastening Nations League defeat in Cardiff.

A single win, against the Americans at the Aviva Stadium who were understrength and actually a bit unlucky not to get a draw. 

The Harry Arter/Jon Walters/Roy Keane saga, so neatly surmised by Stephen Ward in a leaked Whatsapp message, broke around the same time Declan Rice had his head turned by England. Fractured off the pitch, disjointed on it.

Morale has seeped through the floor and gathered in a dank pool in the basement. A Monday night dead rubber in Aarhus is not exactly setting pulses racing.

Denmark won the group on Friday when they turned over the Welsh 2-1 so they have the luxury of freshening up their side with a few fringe men.

Christian Eriksen will start for the hosts. The classy Spurs man, who tormented Ireland a year ago, is however unlikely to play the full 90, according to boss Age Hareide, who is without the suspended Kasper Schmeichel and Thomas Delaney. Defender Simon Kjaer is injured.

"Sometimes football is hard on the managers and sometimes it's hard because the luck is against you in many ways," Hareide said on Sunday as he tried to console his former landlord [he rented a house from O'Neill during their spell together with Norwich in the 80s]. 

"I know Martin is working very, very hard to try to change the luck and that's why we have to be on our tiptoes."

Head and shoulders above Ireland a year ago, it's unlikely they'll have to strain themselves too hard tonight.

O'Neill has had to bring in new faces after John Egan [calf], Alan Browne [shoulder] and Sean Maguire [hamstring] all pulled out with injures, while the [unofficially] retired Glenn Whelan and James McClean [suspended] are also out.

Hearts defender Jimmy Dunne and Manchester United prospect Lee O'Connor get the nod, with the latter earning glowing praise from O'Neill. "He's a very impressive young lad as Nicky Butt said to Roy Keane about him. He is a quiet guy who has done very well indeed. I've been impressed with him as a person and as a player. I think he has a very bright future. It is a great experience for him."

O'Neill has also said he's open to a bit of experimentation so Dunne or O'Connor could well get an outing, with the likes of Ronan Curtis, Shaun Williams, Enda Stevens and Aiden O'Brien entitled to feel they deserve a decent spin.

And then there's the man of the moment.

Michael Obafemi's commitment to the green jersey on Thursday was a badly needed good news story. The Dublin-born attacker, whose parents are Nigerian, moved to England when he was four so he had options. But he's thrown his weight in with Ireland, and that's a real positive.

The 18-year-old has pace to burn and loads of potential. Though he didn't get off the bench against Northern Ireland, he should nail down his international future by featuring in this competitive fixture.  

"Michael looks as if he's got good talent," O'Neill said. "He's a young lad coming through, he's played in the Under-19s, he's made a couple of substitute appearances for Southampton's first team and that's good.

"That means it looks as if at club level, he's making a bit of progress. But he'd be the first one to say he's a long way to go, a long way to go at this minute, and that would go for a number of the players that we have here and that we have capped."

Seamus Coleman also praised Obafemi on Sunday but with an interesting caveat.

"Growing up, the proudest thing I ever did was putting on that green shirt," the Donegal man said.

"You just can't be handed caps - not Michael in particular, Michael has been great - but as the manager said about Declan [Rice], if he wasn't playing for West Ham, he can't just go, 'Right, we'll give you a game so you stay with us'."

Ireland are in a bad place right now. It's one thing being outclassed against France in Paris, but when Wales and Northern Ireland look like they're playing a sophisticated brand of football miles ahead of the static, predictable fare being dished up by O'Neill's men, it's hard to swallow.

At least Denmark don't need to win this to gain promotion to League A - that mission has been accomplished. But who'd bank on Ireland to go and win there now? 

Confidence is so low that the players don't look like they believe they can beat anyone, and it feels like we can't shake the hangover from last year's Danish pasting.

We need a curer.

But it looks like we're wearily heading for another tough night at the office.

Prediction: Denmark 2-0 Republic of Ireland

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