TV View: Bald, Silver and Bronze handing out few medals for Ireland performance

Ireland played with all the intensity of men blessing themselves as a funeral passed by

Ireland supporters feel the strain during the World Cup Pool D game against Italy at the Olympic Stadium. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland supporters feel the strain during the World Cup Pool D game against Italy at the Olympic Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Well, aren’t we the neighbourly lot altogether? All this talk about the tournament losing its spark with England’s exit on Saturday night was hard to take seriously, let’s be honest about it. Someone even said afterwards on telly that losing to Australia was going to cost the UK economy £3 billion, proving once again the truth of George Constanza’s timeless advice – it’s not a lie, if you believe it.

Still, it looked like it had hit home with the Ireland team. We were expecting a solid thumping of Italy, a damn good thrashing to send us into next weekend against France with our tails up. In the TV3 studio, Peter Stringer said we’d win by 18 to 20 points and divil a one disagreed with him.

But then Ireland went out and played with all the intensity of men blessing themselves as a funeral passed by. It must have been in deference to the departed hosts. No other explanation makes sense.

The whole day was dead. For most of the game, there was barely a peep from the crowd in the stadium. It was one of those games when nobody had to shush the crowd to respect the kicker since, for whatever reason, they came pre-shushed.

“More anguish on the face of Ireland supporters,” intoned Conor McNamara near the end. Right on cue, the Irish girl picked out by the cameraman caught her face on the big screen and gave it a huge smile and big ol’ jazz hands. This was a minute or two after a Mexican wave. From the pictures we were seeing, there wasn’t a whole pile of anguish on the go.

Nothing felt right, even from early on. We tuned in to TV3 soon after lunchtime to check out a bit of the Argentina v Tonga game. We were only half-watching it and couldn’t quite understand the TV director’s obsession with one of the Argentine fans jigging around in the stand. Every time we looked up, there was this beefy chap in blue, presumably an ex-prop or something . . . hang on – is that Diego Maradona?

Second Captains

It was! El Diego himself, a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ at the rugby World Cup in Walkers Stadium, Leicester. Scarf in one hand, jar of suds in the other, clearly having a dabba-do time. With every Argentinian score, the camera cut straight to him, twirling his scarf over his head like a desert-island castaway trying to hail a passing rescue plane.

Cue much ho-ho-hoing in the commentary box. “Could it get any worse for England?” pondered Tony Johnson. “The last thing they need is the Hand of God turning up.” Personally, it felt like they missed a trick by not warning the Argies against the perils of white-line fever but there you go.

Build-up time. Stringer was in for Shane Jennings and he turned up for business a magnificent shade of mahogany. With Keith Wood and Matt Williams in the line-up as well, it meant a TV3 panel of Bald, Silver and Bronze.

Murray Kinsella and Sinéad Kissane got in amongst the fans outside the Olympic Stadium, with Kinsella declaring that the atmosphere was “like the Electric Picnic”. Hmm. You knew then it was time to worry. You want your World Cup matches nervy and intense and not fun in any way. The Picnic is laid-back, esoteric and, much of the time, quite, quite stoned. This did not bode well.

Neither did Stuart Barnes declaring that Ireland were now the de facto host nation, with England gone. Given the fate of the actual host nation, it didn’t exactly sound like a role for us to grab with both hands. Mind you, Michael Ring was probably pleased. The Rugby World Cup delivered, a few hundred million under budget and eight years ahead of schedule. That’ll go down a storm on the doorsteps during the coming unpleasantness.

Game on. Well, sort of. Johnny kicked a penalty, Earlsy scored a try. Italy – unsporting rotters that they are – quite visibly declined to lie down and die. Penalty. Another Penalty. Only a point in it.

And then Peter O’Mahony had to dive like a lion tearing a chunk out of a gazelle’s rump (description courtesy of Una Mullally) to prevent a try. Not to put too fine a point on it or anything but, eh, WTF, Ireland?

“You boys nervous at all?” wondered Barnes, impishly. “Not as nervous as England were last night,” snorted McNamara after a telling few seconds of undeniably nervous silence. “I’ve an auntie from Templemore,” said Stuart O’Barnes. The time for joking was running short.

Full-time. Got there in the end. Woody couldn’t for the life of him see why Italy took Sergio Parisse off with 20 minutes to go in a game they had to win. Matt Williams wanted to give Italy the bit of credit that everyone apparently forgot to before the game. Stringer shone a deep, majestic walnut.

“Anything you’re worried about?” Sinéad Kissane asked Joe Schmidt in her post-match interview. “I’m perpetually worried,” replied Joe.

Cripes. Are we panicking yet?

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