You can Tipp your hat to Long and his dancing feet
Between the jigs and the reels even Roy was happy
England defender Ashley Cole is despondent after a missed chance during Wednesday night’s friendly international against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
ITV began the evening with a little montage of goals from Ireland v England encounters, the images intermingled with a hurler, who appeared (inexplicably – no offence) to be wearing a Meath or Leitrim shirt, menacingly juggling a sliotar.
If that confused their Irish viewers, spare a thought for the Sassanachs, a menacing stick-wielding strangely-shaped-leather-ball juggler in a funny hat?
Wot the ’ell?
Mind you, a mere 13 minutes in to the game and who put the ball in the English net only a fella who was a stick-wielding sliotar juggler in a former sporting life. Take a bow, Shane Long, you could only Tipp yer hat to the man and his header from heaven. Go on you good thing.
And the cross-provider extraordinare, Séamus Coleman?
Earlier in the day, Sky Sports News found a few million Irish supporters in Trafalgar Square, possibly finally en route home from Poznan, and asked one for his match forecast: 1-0 to Ireland with “a Seamus Coleman 90th minute overhead kick”.
Not quite, but that cross was almost as lovely, leaving Denis Irwin purring in the Setanta studio at half-time. “A peach of a ball,” he said, and having opened more than a few tins of the fruit with his feet in his time, as they oft put it in the trade, he was well qualified to pass a peachy judgment.
Less nimble-footed, as it proved, was his former team-mate Roy Keane back on ITV, his attention drawn to a group of Irish dancers on the Wembley pitch by Adrian Chiles. Had he, Adrian wondered, ever Irish danced in his time, and all you could do was whip out the praying mat in the hope that Adrian was about to show us video evidence.
“No, I never did that type of thing,” said Roy, breaking our hearts, Lee Dixon and Gareth Southgate way too nervous to chuckle, but he was gracious enough to concede: “I’m sure it’s a lot harder than what it looks”.
Jigging and reeling back to Setanta and Stephen Hunt was rather charmingly talking about it being “pretty nerve-racking to meet Denis for the first time”, a confession that kind of reminded most of us how old we are, while Denis reminisced, at Paul Dempsey’s prompting, about life under Jack Charlton.
Any similarities with Giovanni Trapattoni? “Yeah, he reminds me of Jack,” he said, “but I think Jack was better at communication – but not much,” he added, which left Brian Kerr, you sensed, smiling inwardly.
Discussion about Trapattoni’s tactics and such like was, of course, awkward for Huntie, him still hoping to get back in the squad, so he meant it as a compliment when he said of the gaffer, “he’ll go to the grave playing this way”.
Back again to ITV and Roy was praising Trapattoni for making a change or two of late, noting that until quite recently there were Irish players who turned up for international duty and got picked regardless of how rubbish they’d been for club and country. No names, though, which was gutting.
Match time and Clive Tyldesley was nervously anticipating the anthems, stopping just short of breaking in to “I predict a riot”. “We’ve all moved on,” Andy Townsend reassured him, and holy smoley he was right, divil a boo. Well, not an audible one on the telly box any way.
And then Colemanzinio did his thing, Long leaping like a salmon (not Connor), the only annoyance that he didn’t leave it til the 93rd minute.
Lampard? Yeah, yeah.
Half-time and Roy was happy, which left Lee and Gareth exchanging alarmed glances, “so far so good”, he almost smiled, nigh on breaking in to a one-two-three on the studio floor.
His mood had darkened a bit by full-time, “the second half was pretty shocking”, he grimaced, leaving it to Gareth to pay tribute to the visitors: “I fought Island played quite well actually.”
The real worry, need it be said, in those closing stages, was when the “You’ll never beat the Irish” cry went up, usually a precursor to a calamity that results in the Irish being beaten, but all was grand in the end, another 1-1 triumph over that shower.
“Captain Mainwaring defending from Ireland,” Adrian alleged when we were forced to watch another replay of the English goal, but Roy forgave Seán St Ledger because he’d hardly played in “one or two years”, which isn’t entirely true.
Any way, no riots in Wembley, which must have been a bummer for Sky News who prepared for the occasion much as the Allies warmed up for the second World War.
Memorable for the header from the former stick-wielding sliotar juggler and that peachy right-back from Donegal. A good night’s work.