The mother of all football evenings took a little bit away from Poznan
The interest waned a little as we kept on an eye on France, Zlatan and Ronaldo
Aiden McGeady of Ireland holds off the challenge of Poland’s Michal Pazdan. Denis Irwin though the winger was Irelland’s only bright spark on the evening
Cripes, the opening shot of the stadium in Poland suggested there were more people in the Setanta studio – Connor Morris, Denis Irwin and Matt Holland, to be precise – than had turned up for the game, the locals, seemingly, a touch disinterested in the contest and the Irish, apparently, having been Poznaned out in the summer of 2012.
Mercifully, the place filled up a bit by kick-off, although Forde, Kelly, St Ledger, Wilson, Ward, Walters, McCarthy, Green, McGeady, Stokes and Long had, largely, to sing the anthem on their own, and while no offence is intended at all, One Direction most probably slept soundly in their beds last night.
Elsewhere, of course, it was the mother of all football evenings, Adrian Chiles announcing on ITV, ahead of England’s love-in with Germany, that France wouldn’t qualify for the World Cup, just before they went 2-0 up against Ukraine and levelled their play-off.
And then there was the World Cup qualifying play-off between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo over on Sky Sports, so come the sundry final whistles the remote control was banjaxed.
Patriotism, of course, compels you to focus on your own national team, so there was just the occasional flick over to Zlatan v Ronaldo, the timing rarely ideal:
50: Ronaldo had just scored
68: Ibrahimovic had just scored
72: Ibrahimovic had just scored again
77: Ronaldo had just scored again
79: Ronaldo had just scored again again.
Hate that. Epic stuff. Evidently.
Back at Setanta, all thoughts were on Poznan, of course, Denis sharing his thoughts pre-match on his old buddy Roy Keane, insisting he would be a perfect number two. “What d’you mean, like,” might have read the text that promptly arrived on his phone machine.
Speaking of Denis. “56 Republic of Ireland caps,” read the caption, which left you concluding there was a whole heap of madness going on in the old days when that fella didn’t win 156. No matter.
Time for a quick Connor interview with Roy.
“People are calling it the odd couple,” said Connor.
“The odd couple,” asked Roy, in that ‘take me baaaaack?!’ tone, which left you fearing for Connor, but, happily, he survived and was on duty for the game.
In the commentary box, Paul Dempsey and Curtis Fleming, Dempsey a man who gets as excited about, say, Dagenham and Redbridge v The Dog and Duck, as he would have done if he’d been on mic duty at the 1970 World Cup final. Giddy.
Mind you, come the near-end of the game, his enthusiasm had waned a little.
“Six minutes of injury time! Is it really necessary?”
Curtis suggested it was the fourth official trying to justify his existence.
Paul, though, was distraught, sounding like a man who couldn’t take much more.
“An interminable six minutes of stoppage time – in a friendly in November!”
Before then, he was happy out, Ireland luxuriating in 54 per cent to 46 per cent possession, dashing about the place like terriers chasing rabbits (do terriers chase rabbits?), full of zip and hunger and energy and all that good stuff.
“To have much hope long term you’ve got to be able to play,” said Paul, which you could hardly argue with, it being a reasonable point, but you sensed he was chucking a dart in the direction of an Italian who once managed Ireland, although, out of politeness, he won’t be named.
“Bright, breezy, positive, determined – all sounds good to me,” he said at half-time, but Denis wasn’t quite as enthused, reckoning Aiden McGeadinio was the only “bright spark”, which suggested he felt the other 10 were a bit dim.
Breaking: Slovakia 0, Gibraltar 0. Crikey. You could only assume the Gibraltar goalkeeper was a rock.
Back to Poznan and the second half was up and running, and then Robert Lewandowski was withdrawn, which was a pity. “Yeah, right,” grinned the Irish defence.
0-0. Sure, we’d have taken that, wouldn’t we? (Text: “What do you mean, like?”)
“It wasn’t a classic,” said Denis, and he wasn’t wrong, “I could have been at home watching Ibrahimovic v Ronaldo instead of that muck,” he didn’t add, but you had half a notion he was thinking it.
Over in Paris, meanwhile, the team declared the worst in history by the national press after their first leg hiccup against Ukraine had a nation declaring “mon dieeeeeeeu” by winning 3-0, leaving the close to 90 per cent who wrote off their chances in a L’Equipe poll peeling the oeuf from their faces. And Adrian Chiles was left doing the same.
Another match we missed, then, while tuning in to Poznan. (“Text: “Get over it, like.”)
So, Zlatan and Ukraine will be doing what Ireland will be doing next summer, watching the World Cup on the telly. Bon Voyage, France – and Cristiano too.