IMF forgotten as Ferris's try proves a big stimulus package


TV VIEW: WITH NEW Zealand being the opponents, there wasn’t, of course, any real pressure on Declan Kidney and his men on Saturday, other than that anguished request from a desolated nation beseeching them to produce an uplifting performance that would put half a smile on our distressed faces for in or around 80 minutes of our crestfallen lives.

That, it has to be said, is quite a burden to carry into a game, which might have been why Kidney looked a bit pressured when he had that pre-match chat with Tracy Piggott. But in desperate times you look for any light relief to distract you from the gloom, no matter how trifling, so, in that sense, we were asking Kidney and BOD to be our Prince William and Kate for a day.

Surprisingly, Tom McGurk failed to ask George Hook if he’d be attending the Royal wedding, but you’d like to think not. “Bah! Kate? You should have picked Bob Casey,” the cry would go up from the bowels of the cathedral, before Hook would be taken away by a couple of beefeaters.

Speaking of whom. The happier couple, Brent Pope and Conor O’Shea. “We are not without hope, I hope?,” McGurk asked O’Shea. “We’re never without hope,” he replied.

Pope didn’t actually confirm there was hope, but he almost nodded, which was a good thing. And just as Hook inhaled and prepared to launch his missile of hopelessness McGurk called for an ad break, which was a very, very good thing.

Out came the teams. Anthem time. The Funeral March? No, Amhrán na bhFiann, followed by Ireland’s Call to the IMF. “Hearts of steel, and heads unbowing, vowing never to be broken, we will fight, until we can fight no more.” Indeed.

But the first half proved to be a bit on the uplifting side, Stephen “stimulus package” Ferris’s try putting more than half a smile on the crowd’s faces. What was on Hook’s face? “Egg,” suggested McGurk. “No, no, I’m delighted, surprised and uplifted,” he said. “I thought New Zealand coming in to town would be like the IMF, but we have discovered reserves of gold bullion.”

Over on the BBC Keith Wood was purring. “It’s the half that Ireland needed and wanted,” he said, doffing his cap in particular to the defensive efforts.

“I think, actually, they’re targeting Richie McCaw, giving him an extra little bit of love – every time he touches the ball he gets smashed, pulled, yanked. There’s not too much aggression, though.”

Jonathan Davies, still bearing the scars of being smashed, pulled and yanked himself on many an occasion during his playing career, smiled.

He reckoned, though, that Ireland’s defence was “magnificent”, but the team “panicky” when they had the ball. John Inverdale suggested this wasn’t unreasonable, considering the players in possession had “18 stones (of prime Kiwi beef) bearing down on them, looking to smash them into the ground”.

It was, you have to concede, a fair enough point.

Second half? A bit more of the same. A proud Ireland humbling the visitors 18-38. As RTÉ put it, “Ireland answered their critics with a confidence-restoring display full of endeavour but they were still flattened by New Zealand at Aviva Stadium”.

True, but we’ll take it. “We’re feeling in a bloody better mood,” said McGurk. “It was an heroic performance,” said Pope. “I’m still uplifted,” said Hook, who had lost the run of himself with all this positivity.

It took Kidney, in his post-match state of the nation address, to remind us we hadn’t actually won. “It was a bit more like we want to play – but we still lost,” he said, before informing the panel, via Tracy, he’s proud of his players “every week”, not just on Saturday. “There was unnecessary criticism last week,” he sizzled a bit, and by “unnecessary” we assumed he, possibly, meant excessive, immoderate, inordinate, extreme, exaggerated, overblown, unreasonable, hyperbolic, disproportionate and unwarranted.

And with that we set off for the Breaffy House Resort in Castlebar, where Cavan boxer Andy Murray entered the Mayo arena for his bout with Brazilian Claudinei Lacerda to the tune of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

D’you know, if we repeated that line to a Garda he’d whip out his Breathalyser.

Round one. “A feature of Murray’s boxing is the accuracy of his punching and the consistency of his general performance – if he keeps to that sort of script tonight, well, then he’s in with a really heavy chance,” said Jimmy Magee. And with that Murray was decked by a right hook.

But with a heart of steel, head unbowed, he fought back to win. See? It can be done, you can lift yourself up off the floor, dust yourself down, start again, and, voila, triumph. There’s always hope.