Mary Hannigan TV View: Oh what a dull day for watching the lads run around after their balls

‘When we said we wanted Ireland-England to pass off without incident, I think someone misunderstood’

England fans sing their national anthem before the friendly match with the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

England fans sing their national anthem before the friendly match with the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

 

It’s not often we have England for Sunday lunch, but happily the visitors to the Afifa were impeccably behaved this time, apart from those moments when they rather rudely bellowed: “He paid for your ground, he paid for your ground, Sepp Blatter, he paid for your groooooound.”

The home supporters could have replied, “That’s not entirely inaccurate – he only paid for half the toilets in Block M,” but it’s not easy setting that to a tune, so they let it go.

The match was billed as “More Than a Friendly” and the FAI would have been hopeful of a full house to help pay for the other half of the toilets in Block M. So Roy Hodgson’s pre-kick-off plea on ITV was worrying – “We don’t want to see any animosity between the two fans” – but while there were a few empty seats, it wasn’t as disappointing as that.

The highlight of the afternoon? Apart from the obvious (the final whistle), that moment Big Jack appeared and the crowd olé-ed him, and then he sat beside Paul McGrath and you had to let on there was something in your eye.

After that, it was all downhill, really. Later in the day, Pat Spillane was complaining on RTÉ about the Derry vs Down game – “That’s 72 minutes of my life gone that I’ll never get back” – when he should have counted himself lucky. Those who sat through “More Than a Friendly” lost 92 minutes, 59 seconds of their time on earth. As Oliver Holt of the Mail on Sunday put it, “When we said we wanted Ireland-England to pass off without incident, I think someone misunderstood.”

The only lively spells were when sections of the home support chose to boo Raheem Sterling, possibly because they’re Liverpool fans and are emotional about his desire to find (higher paid) pastures new. If they were the same ones who booed the visitors’ anthem, irony is a concept with which they are not familiar.

Second Captains

Waste

Paul Scholes

Hodgson, meanwhile, was content enough with the draw, if not the performance, telling Gabriel Clarke that “it’s never easy in Ireland, England don’t have a great record here”. Some of us, though, have moved on from the Famine and the like, so don’t worry about it Roy.

It could be that we’d have regarded the game as a barnstormer if it hadn’t followed so soon after the Champions League final, a bit like, say, Mariah Carey having to take to the stage after Aretha Franklin.

The opening game of the women’s World Cup suffered in a similar fashion, hosts Canada having to say a little prayer for a goal against China, the referee divinely intervening in injury time with a penalty award. “Hmmmm,” said BBC3 co-commentator Lucy Ward, “not sure about that”.

Hmmmm, she wasn’t alone, but sure, at least the hosts were happy.

Earlier in Berlin, Barcelona were a bit happy themselves, surviving that Juventus comeback that had George Hamilton wondering if the Italians would do unto them what they’d done unto Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

Would, he asked us and Ray Houghton, “the Old Lady of Turin manage to hitch up her skirt and do for another Spanish aristocrat?”.

Champions of Europe

Andrés Iniesta was man of the match, but the man of the weekend, with twice the legs, was American Pharoah after he became the first horse to win the American Triple Crown since 1978. Matt Chapman, our host on At The Races, was delirious with excitement. “This was Secretariat-esque! This horse travelled like a . . . travelly thing!”

He did too. You know, we could have done with a few travelly things at the Afifa to inject some pace into the game.

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