Two years in, 26 games later, Stephen Kenny could finally afford to be ruthless in his selection as Ireland travelled to play Scotland at Hampden Park on Saturday night.

Covid chaos wreaked havoc in the early days of the current era, while much time and many matches were needed to integrate the guts of a brand-new squad, establish an evolving philosophy while instilling belief and trust in his players.

Ireland pay penalty in second half as Scotland march on

As the pandemic subsided, Kenny's concerns continued with unavoidable injuries as well as the age-old Ireland issue of players failing to clock up enough minutes on the pitch at club level.

The most recent window brought it all into focus with many players sitting idle for weeks ahead of the June series of games, and it is probably the main reason that Ireland were shocked in Armenia before losing back-to-back games with the Dublin defeat to Ukraine.

Arriving into the current international break, all appeared to have changed; changed utterly. Was a terrible beauty about to be born?

Egan's goal gave Ireland the ideal start

A full week to prepare for the Glasgow away day, confidence racing through the veins of the assembled pack at their Dublin headquarters, and most importantly, the majority of the squad playing regular club football back across the Irish Sea.

Selection was indeed the main topic of conversation throughout the daily media briefings, with certain scenarios leaving the manager in a quandary when it came to fine-tuning his starting eleven.

Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty were two of just a few who were lacking game-time, however, they were both essentially vying for the same right wing-back position.

Shane Duffy, likewise, has yet to get going at Fulham, however, following his performance against Scotland in the first game in June, it appeared that the manager really wanted to start him for the return game.

There were options, however, and Kenny offered an insight of the future of his tenure, in that players really need to be getting minutes ahead of international selection.

Dara O’Shea and Nathan Collins, aged 23 and 21 respectively were named to play alongside the elder statesman in the new-look defence, John Egan (29), while there was also a changing on the guard in the midfield department.

Dara O'Shea gets to the ball ahead of Scotland's Lyndon Dykes

Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane were overlooked in the middle of the park with 21-year-old Jason Knight, and Jayson Molumby, just two years older, now overtaking the squad stalwarts.

Energy trumps experience in this new-look Ireland set-up, and it was required in abundance inside the iconic old ground as the match kicked off amidst a white-hot atmosphere.

The tempo was quick, and got noticeably quicker as the game proceeded, with Ireland’s brave approach to a difficult away fixture leaving no room for passengers.

Kenny did, however, leave himself open to scrutiny with the selection of Matt Doherty at right wing-back.

Not because he played ahead of Seamus Coleman, but rather the fact that Alan Browne had been deployed in that role in the reverse fixture, and played the position impeccably, even contributing with a goal in the 3-0 victory – the Preston North End man, picked as a midfielder for this squad, started the game in the dugout alongside the other 12 substitutes.

Doherty, of course, is one of the top boys in the Ireland squad, a high-flying cockerel in the top three of the Premier League, and a player that the manager really admires for his overall game and ability to build momentum from back to front.

Matt Doherty started despite being out of favour at Spurs

The Spurs man is lacking game time, but assured the media and no doubt, manager, of his own fitness during the week, and Kenny was obviously happy with how Doherty trained ahead of the game.

And yet, the equalising goal came from a momentary lapse by Doherty, a defensive decision that he got wrong, which led to Jack Hendry’s headed effort early in the second half.

So while Doherty was physically ready for the battle, perhaps his decision-making facilities were not completely fine-tuned, compared to someone playing a lot of competitive football.

It really was only a mere moment in a game where there was so much to praise from the Ireland performance, and it just so happened that it was the instance that Scotland would pounce.

But the game was still there to be won, or lost, with both sides pushing for the victory before the spate of substitutions upset the rhythm of the game heading into the final 30 minutes.

Five changes for Ireland during that time and not one of the manager’s calls had the desired effect to change the game – it would be very harsh to point the finger at one in particular, the aforementioned Browne, whose handball conceded the penalty for the deciding goal.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s most in-form scoring threat from a club perspective this season, Scott Hogan, sat on the bench throughout the feisty affair, and it may be one that leaves a sour aftertaste in the manager’s mouth that the Birmingham City goal-getter was not offered an opportunity to shine.

"No time to dwell on the result," conceded Kenny after the game, but rather it’s straight into the concluding game of the competition with a home fixture against Armenia at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night.

Ireland came into the week brimming with confidence following their two performances in the summer series at home to Scotland and away to Ukraine; taking real heart from the brave approach and combative display in Glasgow, they now have a great opportunity to end it on the right note with a comprehensive victory in front of a packed Lansdowne Road arena to wrap up the 2022 competitive calendar.

Follow the Republic of Ireland v Armenia on Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player