The end of the World Cup qualifying campaign for USA '94 and as luck would have it, the two teams would be Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The reality was that the island of Ireland raised a collective eyebrow and simply said: "oh we've got them again...ah well".
They had met before and very little had come from it in terms of 'aggro' that voyeurs on mainland Britain had been expecting to happen.
The qualifiers for the 1980 European Championship saw both drawn in the same group as each other with the results being a draw in Dublin and a win for the North in Belfast.
Fast forward to the qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup and there was a reverse in results. Draw in Belfast while the Republic won in Dublin.
Anyone expecting a mass riot at either of the four fixtures - especially the Belfast ones - would be disappointed.
Like most matches elsewhere, these ones passed off with little incident.
For this campaign, the Republic enjoyed a one-side victory over the North in Dublin early in 1993.
Again, nothing to report regarding spectator behaviour.
It was expected that the November meeting at Belfast's Windsor Park would have the same feel about it.
Yes the Republic needed to get a result to qualify and yes the North could cock a snook at them by stopping them from doing that.
All's fair in the love affair that is a local derby etc.
The war that became known as "The Troubles" was now in its 24th year.
However, in the previous matches between North and South, they had not impinged on football fixtures between the two nations themselves.
But a few weeks before the match was due to take place, at 1pm on Saturday October 23, 1993, this happened on Belfast's Shankill Road...
Members of that paramilitary organisation had been meeting on premises situated above Frizzell's fish shop - one such figure was the brigade's commander, Johnny Adair.
Two IRA men, Sean Kelly and Thomas Begley entered Frizzell's under the assumption that the UDA meeting was still in progress - unbeknown to them, it had finished before they arrived and those present had left the building.
The idea for Kelly and Begley was to set off a bomb which was designed to give those in Frizzell's a window of a few seconds to get out (following a shouted warning) but not enough for the UDA upstairs to make an escape.
Those innocent civilians doing their shopping would not even get that opportunity as the bomb went off prematurely killing 10 people and injuring 57 others.
A feeling of horror and revulsion enveloped Belfast's loyalist community.
Leading UDA member Billy McQuiston would later tell Peter Taylor of the BBC that "anybody on the Shankill Road that day, from a Boy Scout to a granny, if you'd given them a gun they would have gone out and retaliated."
But there was a retaliatory strike... and it came at the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel, nine miles east of Derry.
It was a murderous attack that had been planned out in advance.
Three days before it happened, UDA terrorists, Billy McFarland, Brian McNeill, Stephen Irwin, Geoffrey Deeney and Torrens Knight familiarised themselves with the layout of the Rising Sun bar.
Having done that, they returned to the Ulster Democratic Party's Derry office, made a mock-up of the pub and 'rehearsed' the planned killing.
On the night of October 30th 1993, the Rising Sun was staging a Halloween party.
The gunmen entered the premises with balaclavas on. Irwin produced his weapon and shouted: "Trick or treat".
One of the people at the bar is said to have replied: "That's not funny".
Irwin then opened fire.
Six Catholics and two Protestants - none of which had any links to terrorist organisations - were murdered. Thirteen others were injured.
The following day, the UDA released a chilling statement which read: "The Greysteel raid... was the continuation of our threats against the nationalist electorate that they would pay a heavy price for last Saturday's slaughter of nine Protestants."
With mass murder committed by and upon both sides of Northern Ireland's religious divide, it would be somewhat of an understatement that this would not be a good time for the Republic's football team to visit Belfast.
There had already been a bit of needle between the two nations.
The match in Dublin earlier that year had been a very one-sided affair with the Republic winning 3-0.
Footballing banter but something that would be tucked away and brought up again to motivate Northern Ireland for the return in Belfast.
Back then, the Republic looked on course for an easy qualification to USA '94. However, a thumping defeat at the hands of Spain in Dublin meant that everything hinged on the last game.... in Belfast.
Billy Bingham, in what would be his final match in charge of Northern Ireland (an era that had seen him take them to two World Cup finals), had earlier dabbled in the art of footballing mind games by referring to the Republic as having a squad full of of "mercenaries".
When Jack Charlton had taken over as the Republic's manager in 1986, he began to use Fifa's grandparent rule to his, and the Republic's, advantage.
Regardless of where you or your mum or dad were born, if either one of your four grandparents was born in another nation, you qualified to play for that country.
Hence it was not uncommon to hear accents of Scotland, Yorkshire and London mixed with the Irish ones in the Republic's dressing room.
Bingham was no doubt playing up to the "drink a pint of Guinness and you get capped by the Republic" routine, but he was also one to exploit this rule as well.
After all, in his time the likes of Kingsley Black, Iain Dowie and Lawrie Sanchez (all capped by the North) had 'Ulster' accents which sounded more akin with the bow-bells of London and wouldn't have sounded out of place on the set of TV soap opera, Eastenders.
In short, the usual pre-match nonsense that fills an inch or two on the back pages.
Then Shankill and Greysteel happened and the hype that accompanies a football match took on a darker tone.
As they had done for the World Cup qualifier in 1988, the Republic had been planning on making their way to Belfast by coach.
However, in light of the recent atrocities and fearing that they could be a target for loyalist terrorist groups, police on both sides of the border insisted that Jack Charlton's men took the plane from Dublin for the short journey north.
There had even been talk of switching the fixture itself to London's Wembley Stadium.
This was not as daft a suggestion as it might sound today as back in 1973, due to the Troubles, Belfast was not deemed 'safe' enough to stage British Championship games with the North using Goodison Park in Liverpool as their 'home' ground.
Not to mention back in 1981 both Scotland and England refusing to play matches in Belfast for 'safety reasons'.
In 1990, an Irish Cup match between Linfield (seen as a Protestant Club) and Donegal Celtic (seen as a Catholic one) at Windsor Park (where the North and the Republic were due to meet) descended into a riot.
The above two encounters at Windsor Park featured club sides.
An encounter between two nations, seen to be representative of each member of the religious divide, at that very stadium given all the political baggage surrounding it, could have been viewed as being too great a task for the authorities to handle.
In the end, it was decided that they could and the game would go ahead on November 17th, 1993 at Windsor Park, Belfast.
The journey from the Republic's team hotel to Windsor Park was intimidating.
As midfielder Alan McLaughlin said of it in his book, "A Different Shade Of Green":
When the players were consulted we were all very brazen 12 about actually playing the match; everyone had the attitude of ‘let’s just do it’, and yet at the back of all our minds was creeping worry.
Would athletes be targeted? Ha, ha! No way. Surely not. Shrug off the fear, lads, and move on.
However, in the days before the game someone mentioned the 1972 Olympics, when members of the Israeli Olympic team had been gunned down by the Palestinian group Black September. There was that momentary, stomach-tightening fear again.
So, as the coach passed through the tight Belfast streets, past the red, white and blue kerb-stones and triumphal murals of King Billy on his horse, minds were racing with anxiety. Sitting in darkness, everyone was silent.
I looked up and down the coach to the two special branch men, disguised in Football Association of Ireland tracksuits to blend in with us players. Even they seemed to be stroking their guns nervously.
As the coach drew up outside Windsor Park stadium, the escort of armoured cars started to pull away. I looked out of the window, first to the police helicopter still whirring noisily overhead and then to a set of five-a-side pitches illuminated by floodlights.
I thought it was odd that they were empty; there should have been kids enjoying a kick-about. And then I saw the kids. Dozens of them, of all ages, from about 10 to 18.
They had spotted the coach and were converging on it. Undeterred by the police dogs bordering the stadium, this young mob crowded around the coach, making the gun sign with their hands.
Every single one of them. With two fingers outstretched and their thumbs cocked, dozens of fingers rapped menacingly on the coach windows. “Fenian bastards!” Their lips pouted into a ‘bang’ as if they were pulling the trigger and blowing us away.
I was brought up in Manchester but both my parents are Irish and it was an Irish background I had growing up.
But this was really my first time in Northern Ireland. Seeing this first hand was a shock to the system. Not only to me, but to the other lads.
We all had the same reaction and knew it was going to be a difficult place to play.
We knew it would be hostile, we just didn't appreciate how hostile. Nothing could have prepared you. We needed a night of character and nerve.
It was as stern a test of credentials and mental strength as you could imagine. There was so much hate in the air.
A typical local derby with plenty going on in midfield and not much elsewhere.
As for the crowd, very few supporting the Republic decided to come. Those who did kept their allegiance to themselves. The North's support was in a raucous mood - unfortunately some let themselves down by singing a certain song about being up to their knees in "Fenian blood".
Two black players representing the Republic, Terry Phelan and Paul McGrath, both received monkey chants from a section of the crowd.
Alan Kernaghan, who had represented the North at schoolboy level only to choose to play for the Republic at the senior equivalent, received taunts of being a "Lundy" - which referred to the 17th century Governor of Londonderry who abandoned the Siege of Derry being maintained by the Protestant population in 1689 against the Catholic forces of King James VII and II.
Bad as these were, there would be no repeat of a Linfield v Donegal Celtic situation.
On the pitch things livened up when a spectacular volley from Jimmy Quinn gave the North a 1-0 lead.
This prompted Jimmy Nicholl, Bingham's assistant to give an 'up yours' gesture to Republic counterpart Maurice Setters - more about that later.
The Republic pressed on but to no avail. Spain were doing them a favour by beating Denmark but as it stood, the Danes would go through with Spain if the Republic could not find an equaliser.
Fortunately for them they did.
With 14 minutes left. A North clearance fell to McLaughlin outside the box. The midfielder chested the ball down before hammering in a half-volley to level.
The match petered out to a draw which, given that Spain had beaten Denmark, meant that the Republic had qualified.
However, that earlier incident between Nicholl and Setters spilled over into something between Bingham and Charlton.
As the Republic manager would say later:
I spotted Billy talking among his players and moved in his direction to congratulate him on his retirement and compliment him on a good game.
At least that was my intention. Instead, in a moment I still find difficult to understand, I pointed a finger at him and blurted 'Up yours too, Billy'.
Bingham had bowed out of the game having not lost his final match, while Charlton would be taking his team to the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
New York, United States, June 18th, 1994.
Against the odds, the Republic of Ireland have taken a 1-0 half-time lead against Italy in their opening game of the World Cup.
They would go on to hold onto that advantage for a sensational win against a side who would eventually reach the final itself.
At the Heights Bar in a village called Loughinisland situated in County Down, Northern Ireland, people have spent the half-time interval ordering refreshments and pinching themselves at the flying start the Republic team have made.
They would not see the end of the game.
Because as with the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel seven months earlier, two UVF terrorists in balaclavas and armed with assault rifles walked into the pub and opened fire....