Big Mick hits the Bullseye on Euro 2020 event
Maloney and Sadlier do their best with coverage of a draw for competition we haven't reached yet
Former Portugal player Ricardo Carvalho and Lokomotiv Moscow’s Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario bring the trophy on stage during the Uefa Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP
The only person in the audience in Bucharest’s Romexpo Centre who looked more confused about the Euro 2020 draw than most of us at home was Ryan Giggs, to the point where he might not have blinked if told Wales had been slotted in a group with the Falkland Islands, Lesotho and North Antarctica.
And while fancying his nation’s chances of bettering that opposition, he’d have readied himself to tell the press: “There are no easy games in international football”.
That, of course, is a truism, as we will no doubt have confirmed next March when our boys travel to Trnava to take on Slovakia and, if we emerge triumphant, on to Belfast to face Norn Iron or to Sarajevo or Zenica to play both Bosnia and Herzegovina. As it stands, then, Davy Keogh has absolutely no clue from which part of Europe he’ll be saying hello.
Still, though, we were in the draw for Euro 2020 and, in fairness, Darragh Maloney was slightly apologetic about RTÉ bringing us live coverage of a draw for a competition we have not yet qualified for, a little like a Winning Streak contestant celebrating the wheel stopping at €250,000 before it had even been spun.
Richie, whose presence in the punditing chair on Saturday confirmed he had drawn the short straw, largely wore a ‘why are we even here?’ face through the coverage
Or, as Mick McCarthy put it when he turned up on Sky’s Goals on Sunday: “It’s like being on Bullseye, ‘this is what you could have won’ . . . it really is a bizarre situation.”
It was anything but super, smashing, great, then.
Mick, who reminisced about the moment he knew he might be returning to the Republic of Ireland job (“I heard Martin was gone as I was entering the Dartford tunnel, by the time I came out the other side I had 15 missed calls and text messages”) opted not to attend the do in Bucharest, a wise decision, reckoned Richie Sadlier.
Richie, whose presence in the punditing chair on Saturday confirmed he had drawn the short straw, largely wore a ‘why are we even here?’ face through the coverage, Darragh conceding that “this is going to be an odd experience because with four matches being played in Dublin, we still don’t know if we’re even invited to our own party”.
To give Richie some light relief from it all, Darragh asked him instead to comment on the FAI’s finances, a task that would have made taking on Slovakia and Norn Iron and Bosnia and Herzegovina all in the same play-off seem like a doddle.
Bunch of acrobats
He did his best, but seemed relieved to get back to talking about the Euro 2020 draw, the ceremony for which began with a young lady dangling from a curtain that was hanging from the ceiling of the Romexpo stage, before a bunch of acrobats took to the stage, each of them representing a Euro 2020 host city, the Dublin person bedecked in blue, which was probably a tribute to Jim Gavin.
Our hosts Pedro Pinto and Corina Caragea were blown away by the spectacle, but were eager to get on with the business of the day, introducing several retired footballing legends to help them with the draw. One of them was Andrei Arshavin, by the way, last seen leaving a St Petersburg strip club on a horse.
It was Iker Casillas (the mere sight of him reminding us of that 2012 0-4 setback against Spain in Gdansk, the Fields of Athenry game), who plucked us from his bowl and put us in with Spain again, as well as Poland and Sweden, although ours was the only ball actually left in his bowl so don’t be sending him threatening tweets.
The task, then, had become clear.
If we beat Slovakia in Trnava and then Norn Iron in Belfast or Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo or Zenica, we’ll play Poland in Dublin and Sweden in Dublin and Spain in Bilbao and if we win our group we’ll play the third-placed team in either group A, B, C or D in either London, Munich, Rome, Baku, Saint Petersburg, Budapest, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Glasgow or Dublin.
“Now we know,” said Darragh, “eh, what we could be facing.”
All Davy Keogh could say was: “Hello?!”