TV view: Giles says 5-4-3-2-1 and Dunphy blasts off. Again
The biggest line-up change for Ireland’s meeting Kazakhstan was Richie Sadlier coming in for Liam Brady in the hole between Giles and Dunphy
John O’Shea scores: what’s seldom is beautiful. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Could it really be 13 months since this World Cup non-qualifying campaign began? It possibly seems more like 39 for those who monitored the journey from start to finish, the finish being Ballsbridge last night rather than Brazil next summer.
The trip began, of course, with a bumpy win over Kazakhstan, when we were managed by a fella called Giovanni Trapattoni (remember him?), so we were kind of back where we started, this time in a half-full stadium where, by the sounds of it, the average age of the crowd was eight and a half.
As Ronnie Whelan noted later in the evening, “they’re not Germany, Kazakhstan,” and not many are, so there was reason enough to be hopeful of at least ending the journey with a goal or three and possibly even a win.
Four changes for Ireland, just the two for RTÉ: Darragh Maloney replacing Bill O’Herlihy in goal and Richie Sadlier coming in for Liam Brady in the hole between John Giles, on the right, and Eamon Dunphy on the left.
A peculiar formation, perhaps, not least because Sadlier is a forward, but don’t mention the war.
“It’s all nonsense,” said Giles, reminding us that “football is as old as the hills”, reckoning, possibly, that there’s been divil a change in how it’s been played since cavemen first hoofed a pig’s bladder about the place.
“Formations don’t mean anything, it’s like square pegs in round holes, you put square pegs in the square pegs,” he said, re-opening last Friday’s heated debate when, as we know, harsh words were exchanged between the RTÉ lads and Noel King.
“He actually got very personal in his criticism of the panel,” complained Giles, evidently offended by being told he was part of a comedy show, although he didn’t, to be truthful about it, help his defence when he referred to King’s preferred formation “the last few years” as “5-4-3-2-1”.
“In my dreams,” King might have replied if he wasn’t otherwise engaged.
A line-up of those proportions would, you’d guess, help the cause no end, but against the group’s second-from-bottom team, who just about managed a draw against the Faroe Islands last Friday, the feeing was that even 3-2-1 should do.
Not that the panel was hugely familiar with the opposition. “We don’t know that much about Kagastan,” Giles admitted, largely playing safe from then on by generally referring to them as “the visitors”.
So, with that dearth of knowledge, much of the focus was, not unnaturally, on the hosts.
Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes out wide again?
“Inexplicable,” said Dunphy, doffing his cap to King again, Sadlier not massively impressed either.
Still, it being Kagastan, defeat was unthinkable. Ish.
First half. Goal. For the Kags, that is. A zinger, too. Woe was us.
But then a penalty after one of their defenders fielded the ball in a manner that would have done Michael Darragh Macauley proud.
And then John O’Shea. No, seriously. His first international goal since, well, cavemen first hoofed a pig’s bladder about the place. “What’s seldom is beautiful,” as George Hamilton put it.
Half-time. A buoyant panel?
“If we hadn’t been gifted two goals it would have been worse than a struggle, it would have been a nightmare,” said Dunphy, alleging that Doyle and Stokes, in particular, were having “nightmares”.
So that’d be a no.
“Tonight shouldn’t be measured on the final result,” said an equally displeased Sadlier, which was entirely true. But still, being in a winning position was nice.
Second half and it was 3-1 after Stokes retrieved a ball that was actually over the line, but hush, we deserved a little bit of happiness on Budget day, and that’s probably what the artist formerly known as the “linesman” was thinking.
Meanwhile, Ronnie chose James McCarthy as his man of the match for “trying” to get on the ball through the night. You get the sense our standards are slipping.
Still, a win’s a win.
Elation back in the studio.
The old ones, eh?
Yet more heartfelt tributes to King.
“I think we need a coach, and we need one very, very quickly,” said Dunphy, “Friday was an outrageous experiment, and tonight there was more of that. Tactical ineptitude.”
Groundhog Day, like.
Farewell 2014 World Cup non-qualifying campaign. 5-4-3-2-1: We’ve assigned you to history.