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Tributes to ‘national treasure’ Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh as three quarter-finals fail to impress

It must be a dizzy life being an England lad as Bellingham goes from hero to zero to hero

Derry’s Conor Glass dejected after the game. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

A couple of our RTÉ panellists paid the loveliest of tributes to Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh over the weekend, Tomás Ó Sé describing him as “the Picasso of the radio” and recalling that not uncommon phenomenon of folk watching “the match on TV with the radio on”. And on Saturday night, Ciarán Whelan talked of him as the man who “could paint a picture and bring an atmosphere into the rooms of Ireland through the wireless”.

The “national treasure”, as he called him, would, you’d imagine, be chuffed about the wireless finding a whole new lease of life when it comes to match commentaries, thanks, in no small part, to this GAAGo business.

But, and not to be rude, such was the entertainment value to be found in three of the weekend’s All-Ireland quarter-finals, the pity was that they weren’t all hidden behind a pay-per-view wall. Pulling up a chair to watch the emulsion dry on the walls of your downstairs loo would have had the heart racing considerably faster.

The exception, of course, was the demise of the Dubs at the hands of Galway, which GAAGo had all to itself, while RTÉ had the misfortune to have live coverage of Donegal v Louth and Kerry v Derry. “Was it easy on the eye,” Paul Flynn asked of the latter contest. “Absolutely not.” Peter Canavan and Ó Sé nodded, having nigh on nodded off.

Derry’s Brendan Rogers and Adrian Spillane of Kerry. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Those who had opted to make Euro 2024 their sole sporting focus for the weekend didn’t miss much, Italy going the way of Dublin, their fellow defending champions and boys in blue, Switzerland their conquerors.

“And they will be a big problem for England,” an impressed Rio Ferdinand told Gary Lineker, just about remembering to add “if England get through the quarter-finals”.

But come Sunday, that ‘if’ was a small one on the ITV panel, both Gary ‘Nev’ Neville and Ian ‘Wrightie’ Wright prefacing their comments about Slovakia with “I’m not being disrespectful, but”. “I think this could be the game where people realise that England have finally turned up,” said Wrightie, Roy Keane not disagreeing: “I can’t see anything but an England win.”

And then they did a piece on Kobbie Mainoo, the gist of which was that the young lad is the love child of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi and Zidane. That was Jude Bellingham a fortnight ago, but a fortnight is a long time in the bigging up of Eng-er-land players when they can go from the “future of football” to a “moany overrated prima donna” in the blink of an eye.

In the ad break Geoff Hurst was urging the boys to “bring it home” while advertising a lager, and Ben Chilwell was helping promote Marks & Spencer sandwiches, as if England needed reminding that they’d left their only fit left-back at home.

Off we went. Marc Guéhi booked early, his second yellow of the tournament. “That’s him out of the next game,” said Lee Dixon. Honest, he did. And then Slovakia scored. Lee fell silent for a moment or two, possibly fretting about that date with the Swiss being cancelled, leaving it to Sam Matterface to sum up the trauma. When Lee regained his composure, he complained about the “bobbly pitch”, like ploughed turf suited the Slovakians.

Nev was ashen-faced at the break, urging Gareth to make multiple substitutions. “It’s illegal that that lad is not playing in that game today,” he said of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s shift on the bench. No changes at all, though, leaving Lee gobsmacked. But then Foden scored. “In Gareth we trust!” But then the goal was disallowed, and Lee lost all faith in Gareth again.

A minute to go in added time. And Bellingham became the love child of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi and Zidane all over again. “HE HAS SHOWN WHY HE IS ENGLAND’S FAVOURITE SON,” as Sam put it. From hero to zero to hero. It must be a dizzying life being an England lad.

Extra-time. Useless has-been Harry Kane scored the winner, so there might well be a clamour for him to be knighted. “Sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn,” said Sam, the Netherlands or Romania or Austria or Turkey England’s semi-final opponents. That’s no disrespect to the Swiss, but.