Goodnight Giovanni, thanks for the memories

Bill introduces a debate between Gilesie and Liam Brady over whether it’s Trap’s fault that we’re rubbish


Fair play to George Hamilton, he was the only one to make a genuine 110 per cent effort to lift our spirits and raise our hopes ahead of the night’s game, everyone else intent on bursting our bullish balloon before a ball was even booted.

Portugal, he reminded us, lost two home games in their qualifying group for the 1986 World Cup finals, and who did they lose to?

“Sweden and the then West Germany,” he declared.

“Perhaps Ronnie,” he said, “there’s a crumb, a straw at which to clutch.”

Ronnie – the Whelan fella, that is – was having none of it, failing, inexplicably, to see why we should be buoyed by what Portugal accomplished nigh on 20 years ago against, admittedly, only half of Germany, but all of Sweden. “I don’t know about that George, I think our chance has gone,” he said, prompting his colleague’s positivity to wilt even before the anthems had aired.

It was no better back in the studio. God be with the days they’d kick off with something like Colm CT Wilkinson’s ‘This is the Moment’, over slo-mos of Paul McGrath eating Roberto Baggio for breakfast, intros that would leave you believing you could fly all the way to the moon by just flapping your arms.

Instead, we opened with a doleful, melancholic kind of tune over slo-mos of moments we’d all like to forget, the only relief, really, that RTÉ hadn’t chosen Johnny’s Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’, which would have catapulted us over the edge.

“Jaysus Bill, that was very
sombre,” said John Giles’ face, his positivity levels not raised by word that Sweden had just hammered Kazakhstan 1-0. Gloom. And more than a little doom too.

Bill then broached the delicate subject of we-can’t-understand-a-flippin’-word-he-says-gate, as raised by Marc Wilson during the week, sharing with us a chat Tony
O’Donoghue had with Giovanni Trapattoni on the very issue.

In response to the query about the un-fathom-a-bility of his English, Trap responded partly in Italian, translator supreme Manuela Spinelli helping us out, but that kind of left Tony tempted to declare: ‘I rest my bloody case’.

“If the FAI decided they’d like you to continue would you stay on,” he asked. “With very, very enthusiasm,” said Trap, which left you going ‘aaaaw’, wanting the fella to stay almost forever.

Bill introduced a debate between Gilesie and Liam Brady over whether it’s Trap’s fault that we’re rubbish.

Liam argued that Trap should be respected, his “era has run its course”, but he did it his way with a group of players that are less than exceptional.

“I respect Liam’s defence of Trap, but . . .” said Gilesie, and the but was a fairly enormous one. “He had a pre-conceived idea we were no good,” he said, the gist being that if he reckoned the players he was picking were rubbish, then why the heck did he pick them in the first place and not give the younger lads an earlier shout?

A lively ding-dong, it was too, Eamon twitching uncontrollably in his seat as Gilesie and Liam went at it, much like another sidelined Eamon – the Gilmore lad – might do, while watching Enda and Micheál square up.

“When you were manager, John, did you have a plan B,” Bill asked, in reference to the consensus that
Trap never made provision for an alternative to his game plan if it didn’t function terribly well.

“My main thing was to make Plan A work, Bill,” said Gilesie, which was fair enough.

Match time.

First half. Well, at least Plan A didn’t concede.


Bill: “There’s a kind of a downbeat sense in the studio, nobody’s excited about this thing.”

Eamon: “I’m excited, Bill.”

Bill: “You could have fooled me.”

Second half, great, now the yellowed John O’Shea and Richard Dunne out of the Germany game, leaving you fearing we’d need a defensive plan F.

Ronnie, meanwhile, carried on battling gamely with Christian Fuchs’ surname, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland readying itself for a deluge of complaints, and as misfortune would have it, it was Fuchs who created the goal that, once and for all, burst our bullish balloon.

“It’s goodnight Vienna,” said Bill, anticipating a gazillion Wednesday headlines, “and I’d say it’s goodnight Trapattoni”.

Very possibly.

Divil a sign of enthusiasmus for the regime any more.

“Perversity continued until the very end,” said Eamon, “he brought on Conor Sammon,” not the warmest tribute, it has to be said, that the Derby fella has ever received.

“And then Ronnie gives Paul Green man of the match – I don’t think he touched the ball in the whole match. Did he John?”

John: “Well, I don’t think he gave it away, Eamon.”

Eamon: “Did he get it, though?”

John: “I don’t think he touched it, no.”

When that’s a plus, cripes, it might be time to take the ball home.

Goodnight Giovanni, thanks for the memories. Time to move on?