All shuffle in your seats, it's only Germany next


TV VIEW:Bill O’Herlihy, lest we forget, was largely responsible for what proved to be an edgy enough opening 89 minutes

WELL, THAT was comfy.

And all those prophets of doom, their green, white and gold Brazil 2014 bananas despondently deflated, who fretted that it wouldn’t turn out well, when there was a whole minute plus added time to go with the score at a mere 0-1, need to hang their despairing, defeatist heads in shame.

Sure, we were laughing in the end. Comfy.

Bill O’Herlihy, lest we forget, was largely responsible for what proved to be an edgy enough opening 89 minutes when he declared pre-match that “it’s inconceivable that we’re not going to win”.

This was almost, you half feared, venturing in to Kevin Keegan-ish territory – too many to choose from, but, famously, eg: “Only one team can win this now – England” (seconds before Dan Petrescu won the 1998 World Cup game for Romania).

Our host, while his spirits were still not fully recovered after our summer misadventures, was convinced this campaign should, at least, start with a triumph, considering Kazakhstan are below Sao Tome and Principe, St Vincent and the Grenadines and even Northern Ireland in the world rankings.

“I mean, St Pat’s effectively beat that team,” he added in a ‘for heaven’s sake’ kind of way, referring to their Europa League success over Kazakh big guns Karagandy last year, ensuring himself a warm welcome in Richmond Park next time he drops in.

So, with our Euro 2012 bags hardly unpacked, here we were, off again on our travels. “The road to Brazil starts right here in Astana,” said Tony O’Donoghue standing plastic-pitchside in Kazakhstan, when it seemed a mere week since we picked up considerably more pints than points in Poland.

A shiny new era of swashbuckling football with, say, a devilishly quirky 3-1-2-1-2-1 formation?

“Yeah, right,” suggested John Giles, Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy – the latter, you must say, having scrubbed up decidedly well during the summer. (Legal department: that was Richard Sadlier).

But this was a new day, and new days bring hope, optimism, positive thoughts and the like. Bill, then, was well-ish up for it, but Liam, the auld doomsayer, reminded him: “Things can go wrong in a football game.”


Liam: “It’s nightmare stuff.”

Bill” “It’s depressing, isn’t it?”

Liam: “No – it’s a nightmare.”

It was, a bit. Before kick-off, Bill had apologised because the game wouldn’t be available in high definition, while George Hamilton told us that it was entirely the Kazakh telly people’s fault that there were no replays, so we’d just have to “reminisce” about what we’d seen a few minutes before

That Kazakhstan goal? You could only be grateful there were no high definition replays, once was more than plenty, thanks very much.

“That’s a bad goal to give away,” said George. Well, yeah.

“Ireland are one down,” said Ronnie Whelan, but it sounded like he was talking to himself, in a kind of a ‘I-totally-can’t-believe-I’m-saying-this’ manner.

“Goodness gracious me,” said George, when Kazakhstan nearly scored all over again.

By now you were wishing we’d sent St Pat’s to Astana. We had, then, underestimated the home nation, who, remember, won four weightlifting gold medals at the Olympics. And three of them were collected by women. So, a brawny bunch, apart from the poleaxed fella who needed his buttocks sprayed after being hoofed in that particular region by an Irishman, when, in truth, it was the Irishmen who needed a severe hoofing up their collective backsides.

“Are we facing a disaster,” an ashed-faced Bill asked at half-time.

“Yeah, we’re facing disaster,” said Richard, which wasn’t quite what Bill needed to hear.

Gilesie just reckoned it was “caveman” football, which could result in him being sued by the Flinstones. You can only smear folk so far, before having to pay for it.

No changes at half-time, off we went again with the hoofarama fest, the Kazakhstan midfield feeling, for probably one night only, that they were Iniesta and Xavi-esque.

Kevin Doyle and Shane Long on. “That’s three centre forwards we’ve had on the wing today, with wingers on the bench – it baffles me sometimes, George,” said Ronnie, but with that Doyle did his penalty-creating thing.

“An intervention from the Gods,” as George described it. Hallelujah. A point, then. No, no, wait. All three. Ah here, Wexford abu.

“A great three points to start off with,” said Ronnie, his tune now so changed it was like going from ‘How much is the doggy in the window to ‘I say a little prayer’. From the wacky to the wonderful, like.

“The road to Brazil is still open,” said George, with no feeling at all, at all.

“Let’s not dare celebrate that,” said Richard, prompting a tussle with Liam, Richard suggesting the FAI should get together, have a chat and figure out what it would cost to “get rid of Trap”. Liam reckoned that was nuts, entirely, Giles somewhere in the middle, but leaning Brady-ish. Dunphy, you suspected, was watching somewhere, extracting his hair strand by strand because he’d missed the night that was in it.

“I’m no happy,” conceded Trapattoni when he spoke to Tony, but in the end, “we unblocked ourselves”. Tony, though, asked him if he’d taken the team as far as it could go, that he was far from being our Mr Dyno-Rod, that Ireland under him were the drains. (We’re paraphrasing here). Trap, though, said he’d soldier on, in so many words.

“Next up: Germany,” said Bill.

The panel shuffled uncomfortably in their seats. Cripes, they weren’t the only ones.

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