Rain stopped play, and then the real match kicked off
VIEW FROM THE COUCH:STORMY WEATHER. And that was just in the RTÉ studio. Over in Ukraine it was less inclement, just a deluge, thunder and a spot of forked lightning. “Is Roy Keane in Donetsk,” wondered Gordon Strachan on ITV, “that’s the kind of weather that follows him about.” Oooh.
The delay did, though, allow time for the mother of all heated debates between Liam Brady, Richard Sadlier and Eamon Dunphy, and for that we must be eternally grateful to the weather Gods, while meaning no offence to Peter Collins and Ray Houghton who, by then, were treading water in their commentary positions.
The topic up for discussion: Did Giovanni Trapattoni absolve himself of all blame in his post-match comments on Thursday, pointing the finger at his players, or had he been misinterpreted? Which is, it has to be said, easily done.
Surprisingly, there was no ‘social media poll’ on the issue, instead Darragh Maloney telling us the question for the day was “Will you be supporting England tonight?”. Risky. Especially as the first count results had 62 per cent saying, in so many words: “You’re having a laugh, aren’t ya? Sweden Abú!”
But back to the Irish post-mortem. “I think he plays the press like you’d play a fish,” said Dunphy, alleging the manager had reeled ’em in at his press conference before whacking them over the head and frying them.
Brady thought this was most probably an incorrect interpretation, that it was more likely that the press people had sort of deliberately misinterpreted his words to fit their “nasty” agenda.
“We’re entitled in the media to discuss the performance of the Irish team, the performance of the players and the performance of the manager,” said Dunphy.
“But you’re not entitled to say he’s absolving himself of any blame because that’s an agenda that’s going to be created now by you guys,” said Brady.
“But Liam, you’re part of it as well now, sitting here,” said Maloney, which wasn’t an entirely unreasonable point.
Dunphy went on to defend the media by pointing out they’re not all “feral”, “vicious”, “animalistic”, “predatory”, “unthinking”, “sensationalist” and “nasty”, which was nice, but Brady didn’t look too convinced, those descriptions seemed to fit the bill.
“They all get together when they’re away and say ‘okay, what difficult questions can we ask’, they all agree, and that’s how they attack,” he said.
(By now you just had your fingers crossed that it would keep bucketing down in Donetsk).
“You said if it gets particularly nasty it’ll be about whether his contract is right, whether he should serve the next two years – I think that’s an appropriate direction for this line of questioning to go,” said Sadlier.
Brady: “I didn’t say that at all, I didn’t say that at all! Get what I said right.”
(Doing rain dances now).
Sadlier: “I think this is a footballing issue.”
Brady: “Well, don’t bring money in to it.”
Sadlier: “You mentioned money!”
Brady: “No, YOU mentioned money.”
Dunphy: “No, it was me.”
Sadlier: “It was him!”
(Back on ITV Strachan spotted Darth Vader wandering the streets of Warsaw: “We wondered where Roy Keane had got to.” Looking forward to their next joint ITV appearance).
Meanwhile, back on RTÉ we were taken live to Trapattoni’s press conference, by now genuflecting to those weather Gods. But just as someone asked the manager about Roy Keane’s comments we were whisked back to Donetsk where rain, alas, was no longer stopping play.
Everyone made up in the end, though, before Ukraine and France swam back on to the pitch.
Dunphy: “There’s another feature of today that is unique, it’s an honour for Liam to be sitting in between two former Millwall footballers – and it’s not often two former Millwall footballers appear on television.”
Brady: “Where do Millwall ex players usually appear? In the dock?”
Maloney: “We’d like to distance ourself from those remarks – and so would Liam.”
Some would argue that no one likes ex-Millwall players, so no one will care, but still, best to be on the safe legal side.
And then there was Sweden, very nearly raining on England’s parade. Alan Shearer confidently predicted Roy Hodgson’s boys would make a “big statement” in the game, and Lee Dixon couldn’t see them losing, so, naturally enough, they went 2-1 down with half an hour to go.
“They might have a new manager, but same old, same old England, I’m afraid,” Mark Lawrenson sighed, but then Lionel Welbeck broke 62 per cent of Irish (and 100 per cent of Swedish) hearts.
It’s been a long auld week. Divil a blue sky in sight.