Lack of the X Factor a serious concern for two broken men

 

TV VIEW:COME FULL-TIME in their respective sporting engagements on Saturday, Colm O’Rourke and George Hook had the look of broken men who felt they’d frittered away a whole evening of their lives, time they would never get back, time they could have put to much greater use. Like, say, watching X Factor.

“I don’t think that was much competition to Mary Byrne,” said O’Rourke with a sigh, after enduring the highlights of the first International Rules Test in Limerick, which TG4 had brought us live earlier in the evening.

Hook, too, had it up to his oxters with Connacht and Leinster after their Magners League clash in Galway, the ordeal leaving him feeling so empty you half expected him to give us a verse of I Who Have Nothing.

As it happened, O’Rourke and Hook had much the same complaint about what they’d witnessed: there was a distinct lack of meaty rough and tumble.

True enough. Certainly for those of us who donned helmets and gumshields as we settled down in our armchairs to watch An Astráil and Éire on TG4 it was all a bit genteel, divil a punch thrown in anger.

Michael Lyster concluded we were beyond pleasing, “when it’s a boxing match we don’t like it either”. He had a point.

An Astráil had a pile of points in the end, beating their hosts 47 (0-14-5) to 40 (1-8-10), a scoreline that had the look of one of those maths formulae that used to have you writing “are you having a laugh?” on your exam paper.

Kevin McStay reckoned it was all a bit tame, and while not wanting to “encourage skullduggery” he hoped the players would edge closer to the line in the second Test.

O’Rourke agreed, “it’s become very sanitised now”, concluding that it must have been “a fairly boring night” for the crowd.

He thought the football was exceptional, though, in that it was “a dreadful demonstration of the basic skills of Gaelic football: catching and kicking”.

“A facade of sophistication painted over not a lot of testosterone,” O’Rourke and McStay might have said, but instead it was Hook concluding that the rugby West wasn’t awake, it was comatose.

Pre-match he’d had “a warm feeling” about Connacht’s prospects, certain that they were up for it, but by half-time he was bemoaning their “passivity”. Frankie Sheahan tried to calm him down a bit, but you wondered if even Sky’s customer service could placate him.

Yes, they feel as passionately about his problems as he does, but could they pacify him if he rang them up ranting about Connacht’s yielding of injury-time bonus points? Doubtful.

“And these guys give them away like fairies on a Christmas tree,” he said, dismissing Daire O’Brien’s insistence that Connacht had no option but to take a risk or three late on. “You do NOT go in search of the Holy Grail when you have a chance of getting your breakfast,” said Hook.

“Settle for the porridge, don’t go for the full fry,” asked O’Brien.

Yep.

Sheahan, the eggs Benedict of rugby punditry (that’d be: rather good) might have been tempted to snap, crackle and pop at this stage, not least when Hook directed his canons towards Joe Schmidt. But he kept his cool, conceding that the Leinster coach had yet to convince, but wasn’t yet toast.

“Well,” said Hook, “I continue to have grave doubts about a coach who thinks Isaac Boss is his best choice at number nine, the worst passer in Leinster.”

Sheahan reminded Hook that Boss had created Isa Nacewa’s try with a “fantastic” break and looped pass. “Frankie, your Granny would have scored a try with the gap that opened up,” came the reply.

“Making the pass running at that pace? George, I don’t think YOU’ve ever run at that pace,” said Sheahan, who sounded to us like he’d had his Weetabix.

Anyway, Hook insisted he was simply holding Schmidt to “higher standards than you and the rest of the apologists”, but promised he’d recant if Leinster finished the season as European champions. Is that a ticker-tape parade we see being readied on O’Connell Street?

A right palaver. Would he stay or would he go? No, not Joe Schmidt, the Rooney fella. Lou Macari was marginally beyond gobsmacked on Friday when he spoke to Sky Sports News about that new contract. “I can’t believe it! I’m shocked! Nothing’s shocked me more in football! I thought it was April the first!”

And that’s kind of how most of the United faithful probably felt when Sky promised they’d lined up a string of the club’s legends to react to the news – “including Clayton Blackmore”. Eh . . .