Mary Hannigan’s View from the Couch: The armchair critics

‘ROW ROW ROW’ we shout at Sanita Puspure. If only she heard our words of wisdom

Sanita Puspure is consoled by physiotherapist Sarah Jane McDonnell after finishing fourth. James Crombie/INPHO

On reflection, Bill Murray's suggestion last month was the best ever. "Every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference," he said. Perfect. Because that way we might have a greater understanding of what our people are up against instead of howling, say, "ROW, ROW, ROW!" at Sanita Puspure from our couches, where we wouldn't know an oar from a remote control, because we think (a) she needs our expert advice and (b) she'd prevail if only she tried harder.

Myles Dungan had warned us that Puspure was in the “heat of death” and in the early stages it looked alright like her Olympic hopes had expired, but then whoosh, she evidently took our advice and started closing in on the vessels in front of her.

But in the end she missed out on a place in the semi-finals by .65 of a second. That’s .65. It takes longer to blink.

Joanne Cantwell was beyond gutted for Puspure, but if you're ever looking for comfort in a testing life-moment, Neville Maxwell might not be your man.


“She just ran out of water – another two strokes and she was in the Olympic semi-final,” he said, suggesting she’d left it all a bit late. Joanne stressed the awfulness of that .65 of a second.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s .65 of a second or six seconds – you’re out of it, it’s four years down the drain,” he said.

That’s not what you want to be saying to an Olympian who put their non-sporting life down the drain for the previous four years, only to be .65 of a second away from progressing in Rio, (even if it’s true), so hopefully Joanne gave him a clip ‘round the ear during the ad break.

Clare Abbott had a better time of it in the jumpy part of the eventing thingie with a clear round on board Euro Prince, a horse who caught Tom Freyne’s fancy.

"Lovely expression on his face, always has his ears pricked, willing little chap," he said, a description that could apply equally to Paddy Barnes, (a man who deserves to be loved even more since asking Rory McIlroy if he needs a caddy).

Tom, who is Robert Hall's Olympic Ted Walsh, also talked about a horse having "a snaffle with a gag on it", so there's some way to go yet before we're entirely familiar with this sport and its lingo, but Clare responded well to our cries of "JUMP, JUMP, JUMP!", so you don't always have to be an expert to contribute.

Performance of the day

The Irish performance of the day, though, was produced by our hockey team, and not that bit where they ran reigning Olympic champions Germany close, only losing 2-3.

It was during the pre-match ceremony when they had to sing an acapella version of Amhrán na bhFiann because there was no electricity for the stadium's ghettoblaster to play the tune. All we can say is that five minutes in to the game, when Ger Canning suggested that Peter Caruth's appeal to the umpire for a short corner "fell on deaf ears", a nation replied: "That's the state of our ears too."

But not many of us would even be brave enough to try an acapella version of Amhrán na bhFiann, so they deserve to be saluted, and besides, the Germans' musicless rendition of their anthem made our lads sound like the Treorchy Male Voice Choir.

Shadiest past

Elsewhere, countries other than Ireland are competing, and in the pool we can now easily tell which contestants have the shadiest doping past by the level of booing from the crowd. In the absence of the authorities taking the matter all that seriously, it’s a handy guide to who we should most want to lose.

“Thank God that happened,” said Rebecca Adlington over on the BBC after American Lilly King saw off Russia’s Yulia Efimova in the 100m breaststroke final.

Efimova’s arrival for the race had been greeted by loud enough catcalls to confirm that she’s a baddie and that we’re now dependant on a boo-o-meter to know who should have been left back home watching it all on the telly like the rest of us, rather than competing.

No doubt the American commentators who hailed Lilly for her antipathy towards Yulia will register an eardrum-busting score on the boo-o-meter when Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay make their first Rio appearances.

Earmuffs at the ready.