IN THE end it was another one of those nights in Cardiff.

After the extraordinary highs of last summer’s French adventure, Wales will resume their traditional role of outsiders watching on from afar as the World Cup goes on without them.

Without Gareth Bale and with Joe Allen successfully nobbled, Wales never looked like scoring against a physical but supremely well drilled Republic of Ireland side.

So we can add Ireland 2017 to a long list of disappointments and near misses, from Scotland in 1977 and 1985 to Romania 1993 and Russia 2003.

Watching the action on TV next summer will be a painful experience for Welsh fans after the magical memories made at Euro 2016.

It will serve as a painful reminder of just how big an achievement it was by Chris Coleman and his players to reach the last four in France.

And, despite the failure to get over the line against the Irish, those golden memories mean most Welsh fans will want the manager to stay on.

The day after defeat to Portugal in Lyon 15 months ago, Coleman was clear that he would move on after the 2018 qualifying campaign.

“I am sure this will be my last campaign whether we qualify or not,” he said.

“That will be six or seven years in the job, which is a long time. So I think this will be my last hit at it.”

But on Monday night he appeared to be open to the possibility of staying on as national boss.

“There's a chance I can and a chance I won't,” Coleman replied when asked if it was possible he could continue in a job he has held since January 2012.

“I can't give an answer right now. It's not just a matter of signing a new contract, the FAW have been great with me.

“I asked them to leave me alone as my contract has been running down and all the questions were getting asked.

“I wanted to concentrate on getting results. There'll be a conversation in due course and my contract is until the summer.

“But right now, I'm thinking about the experience. I'll go back to my family and take a bit of time.

“When the dust settles we'll see where we go.”

South Wales Argus:

Bale, a frustrated spectator at the Cardiff City Stadium, is said to have led a delegation of players to try to persuade Coleman to continue.

After listening to that spine-tingling pre-match rendition of the national anthem on Monday will he really want to walk away from the top job?

If he is wavering, then the FAW must do everything they can to tie him to a new contract as soon as possible.

Because, while the likes of Ashley Williams and James Collins must now accept that they will almost certainly never play in a World Cup, there is still real hope for the future of this side.

Williams aside, the core of the side have one or two campaigns left in them.

And with exciting youngsters like Ben Woodburn and Tom Lawrence already emerging and potential future stars David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu already integrated there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The most likely scenario is that Coleman will call time on his national service and that next month’s friendly will serve as his farewell.

John Hartson, part of the coaching team from 2012 to 2013, believes his former teammate will be tempted by a return to club management.

“Personally I think he'll walk away now,” said Hartson. “I don't think he'd be short of offers.

“He's proved himself as the Wales manager and I think he's lined up for a big job if that's what Chris wants to do.”

The bookies seem to agree with Ryan Giggs already installed as the favourite to take the job and the likes of Kenny Jackett, Craig Bellamy, Mark Hughes and Newport’s Tony Pulis listed as contenders.

Giggs and Bellamy are names that would be attractive to the FAW and they would undoubtedly excite some fans.

The others would be ‘safe’ if uninspiring choices but it’s hard to see anyone getting more out of this group than Coleman has done over the past three years.

The tools are there for a successful Euro 2020 campaign, whoever is in charge, but Coleman is undoubtedly the best man to lead Wales forward.