Matt finish for wall-to-wall coverage


If you'd any compassion at all you'd feel sorry for sports loathers after the telly weekend we've just had but, then again, that's what DIY Centres were built for. Funny though, if a matt finish was what some of these people planned giving their walls while air time was taken up by gaelic football, football, motor racing, international rules, rugby and synchronised pigeon ballroom bowling (howarya Eurosport), it was a Matt finish of an entirely different nature that had you and me looking up air fares to Japan.

Declan Meehan's finish in the All-Ireland final was a bit majestic too (more glossy than Matty), coming, as it did, at the end of a sweeping length-of-the-pitch move that appeared to involve half the population of Galway and had us swooning viewers racking our brains trying to remember a finer Croke Park goal. "We've seen two great goals today," Michael Lyster enthused later that night, referring to Meehan and Matt Holland's efforts. "I'd say Meehan got paid very little for his," replied Tommy Lyons. Oooh . . . sigh, weep, groan.

All Ireland finals on a Saturday? Na, not keen. It'd be like switching Pancake Tuesday to a Monday - no matter how good the pancakes might taste they just wouldn't be quite the same. Not that Kerry are complaining, of course. So long as they'd be guaranteed a repeat of the result they'd probably be happy enough to play on a Wednesday morning.

"It lacks the intensity you normally associate with a final," agreed Colm O'Rourke who, by half-time, reckoned the flavourless pancake needed a dollop of maple syrup in the form of Galway's forwards taking their chances. "There are a lot of poor players on both teams," he had said before the game. "They are two very talented teams, the most talented in Ireland," Tony Davis had said around the same time.

"A poor game and a damp squib," Pat Spillane concluded at full-time. Later Lyons begged to differ, revealing there's not much he and Pat see eye to eye on. Whatever your views on the quality of the game there's no doubt, Colm and Pat v Tony and Tommy was a thriller - end-to-end-stuff with no quarter asked and none given. Result? A draw (replay date yet to be confirmed).

In fairness to Pat he's never been one to call a spade anything other than a spade - until Saturday, that is, when he tamely called the presentation ceremony an "anti-climax". This, actually, is a polite term for `a shambolic embarrassment.' Magnificent stadium, stupendous games, devoted supporters, rubbish cup presentation. The players deserve better. Sort it out lads.

All-Ireland replay day began with disappointment for Sonia O'Sullivan when she was pipped for gold on her lap of honour around Croke Park by Ray McManus, the Gabriela Szabo of the photography world. True, Sonia wasn't at full stretch but Ray was carrying roughly 17 cameras, 64 lenses and 200 spare films and still, as Lyster observed, outsprinted her with a blistering kick at the end. Send that man to Athens.

While all this was going on at Croke Park, England, Wembley and Kevin Keegan were falling apart live on Sky Sports. Alan Shearer was the chief Sky pundit in residence, now that he's given up wearing three lions on his chest. Al doesn't look all that happy at the best of times but come full-time his face resembled a wet and manky dish cloth. "How would David Seaman feel about that goal," Richard Keyes asked him of Germany's winner. "He'll be disappointed that it went in," said Al. "One word to sum up Germany," Keyes asked. "Very efficient," said Al. Why use one when two will do?

So what next for England? "Well, I know Kevin and he'll just get his head down, ignore all the fuss in the media and concentrate on getting three points off Finland," promised Al, but he had barely finished the sentence when (before you could say "shock resignation") Kev had offered his shock resignation and Al was resigned to being shocked.

Over on ITV, Des Lynam asked Tel Venables if he was interested in succeeding Kev and he categorically denied that he wasn't. So I think it's safe to assume Tel would like the job. Even if the FA would rather give it to Slobodan Milosevic, now that he's unemployed.

Later that night, after the Portugal v Ireland game, Eamon Dunphy played a lovely tribute to Keegan whose departure from the scene, he said, was "bad for comedy but good for football". But why did the FA appoint him in the first place? "The English FA is a bit like the FAI - stupid, and they appoint stupid people," he said. Sometimes you wish he'd just stop beating about the bush and speak his mind.

Bill O'Herlihy looked uncomfortable during this exchange but, to be honest, Bill didn't look himself at all on Saturday - in fact he bore a spooky resemblance to Michael Lyster. Maybe the Olympics took their toll. Pardon? That was Michael Lyster? Oh. Okay. Well, as Kev Keeg once said "I know what is around the corner - I just don't know where the corner is." Before adding, "it's understandable that people are keeping one eye on the pot and another up the chimney". You're right Eamo - life will never be the same again without Kev.