Not a great start to the olé days it has to be said
TV VIEW:YOU KNOW, it might be best if we don’t qualify for one of these things for another 10 years; it’ll take that long for our heart rates to return to normal.
In shreds after the national anthem, minced after Mandzukic’s goal (or Mandlikova as this spellchecker insisted on calling him – a Hana fan, obviously), mangled after Sean Saint Ledge did his thing, guttified after Croatia’s second . . . and we hadn’t reached half-time.
And then there was that phantom whistle which caused approximately 83 per cent of the nation (that’s a guess) to not celebrate the Ledge’s goal in its immediate aftermath.
“Are you as tense and nervous as I am?” asked Bill O’Herlihy in the build-up. “No,” said John Giles.
That left Giles a lonely man as 98 per cent of the population chewed its toenails, although, later, Bill revealed the results of the social media poll question that was asked – “Will Ireland beat Croatia?” – 86 per cent said yes. At that point the panel burst out laughing.
“I think all this optimism is, eh, a bit optimistic,” said Giles, who, frankly, is failing us all by not getting himself on Twitter. Sort it out, soon.
Over on ITV, Roy Keane, clearly, had not been informed of the results of RTÉ’s poll, saying of Ireland “they’re the underdogs, the expectations aren’t too much”.
We were then treated to clips from that glorious Giovanni Trapattoni Bayern Munich press conference a few years back when, a touch irate, he slightly mislaid the plot, describing his players as “weak like a bottle, empty” along the way.
“Unhinged?” asked Adrian Chiles. Keane thought not, in fact he purred in admiration; Gareth Southgate just looked frightened, while Jamie Carragher said “I’d love to see that from me own manager, like”.
The reporter who brought us the profile on our manager described Ireland as “the Machiavellian embodiment of Trapattoni’s values”, which might or not been a compliment.
Back on RTÉ they’d assembled an eclectic cast of characters – Eddie Hobbs, Keith Wood, Stephen Roche, Mary Byrne, Barry McGuigan, Jimmy Magee, Bernard Dunne and Robbie Keane’s wife – to share their favourite Olé Olé moments, which was uplifting, before Eamon Dunphy went through the Irish team and reminded us how many of them had completely rubbish seasons, which wasn’t.
“You think it’s a lost cause, don’t you Liam?” said Bill.
“I DO NOT!!! I DO NOT!!!,” Brady replied, but, alas, come full-time, he did a bit.
“It’s for nights like this that you live and breathe football,” said George Hamilton when we went over to the stadium, which was entirely true, but apart from the Ledge moment and the beyond astounding support, there wasn’t a whole lot to warm the cockles of our hearts.
“To concede two goals like that at this level, they’ll be verrrrrrry disappointed,” said Roy and his narrowing eyes at half-time, sounding a little Hannibal Lecter-ish to the point where you suspected if he was the manager he’d have eaten the players with some fava beans and nice Chianti in the dressingroom.
Bill was no less disappointed, describing the second Croatian goal as “a bit of a bummer”, and really it only got more bummerie after that.
“It’s as bad as it gets,” George sighed, which prompted Bill to try and raise our spirits when we were back in the studio. “Don’t despair, there’s a long way to go,” he said, but at that point that was our chief concern.
As if it wasn’t a tough enough night for him, Trapattoni would have been alarmed to hear Dunphy was being rather sympathetic (that’s when you know you’re really in trouble), although Tony O’Donoghue tangled with the manager over the issue of playing Simon Cox on the left and leaving James McClean twiddling his toes on the bench. Trap looked a little irate for a second, but, happily enough, resisted labelling McClean “weak like a bottle empty”.
But, yeah, a bit of a bummer in the end. Still, no worries, it gets easier now, just the World and European champions next.