TV View: ‘Zero-craic Eddie’ sees the glass half-empty at Twickenham

Donal Lenihan went through the exultant highs and funereal lows in a draining 80 minutes

Come full-time, Donal Lenihan was drained. Granted, the Irish team was too, that contest in Twickenham had, after all, been quite a trip, from the 82nd second when it looked like a pulverisation of the Sasanach was on the cards, to the next 70ish minutes when the nation would have asked, as one, 'lads, what are ye at?', to the last 10 minutes when all was good with the world again.

Pitch-wise, though, Donal’s co-commentary had resembled the Richter Scale, from those exultant highs when Ireland went 8-0 up against 14-man England, to the funereal lows when exasperation got the better of him, not least when Ireland attempted to partake in the act of scrummaging, to ear-piercing angst levels, like when Ireland needlessly conceded a penalty under the posts shortly before half-time.

By then, Donal’s co-commentary soared to a height only reached by the loftiest of Garryowens.


It's not that he'd anticipated a comfortable afternoon in London. "They'll throw the kitchen sink at us," he'd predicted, "it'll be explosive". And hardly had he completed the sentence when Charlie Ewels was heading for one of the earliest baths in the history of rugby union. So early, the immersion would hardly have had time to have heated the water up.

Those who might have argued that Ewels was hard done by should have had a word with James Ryan’s head, the impact so horrific you could nigh on feel it on the shuddering couch.

By then, the RTÉ panel had teed up the battle in no understated manner, Jamie Heaslip telling us that even if it was Tiddlywinks we'd still want to batter the bejaysus out of England, Jacqui Hurley showing us a montage of past Twickenham meetings between the nations that, she said, would "stir the soul". Jerry Flannery nodded, like the tears were about to flow all over again .

Which they nearly did down Jonathan Sexton’s cheeks during Ireland’s Call, not so much because of the emotion of it all, more that Peter O’Mahony was bellowing the tune in to his left ear to point where it was nigh on perforated.

And off we went and hardly had Ireland’s Call departed the Twickenham air when Ewels was departing the scene.

And then, as Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, put, “Swing Lowe, Sweet Chariot”. Try. James. The camera picked out Eddie Jones’s face. You’d almost have felt sorry for him. Kidding. The afternoon would be a breeze.

Except it wasn’t. Only 15-9 up at half-time, a whole heap of sloppiness allowing England to believe that not entirely all hope was lost.

Come half-time, Brian O'Driscoll was chewing his gums on ITV, Clive Woodward was saluting the courage of little England, as was Jonny Wilkinson, although he reckoned that "the floodgates are still there" – if Ireland stopped acting the maggot and remembered how to do set-piecing, they'd help themselves to a handsome victory.

Second half. Ireland still acting the maggot, not least when the score got to 15-15. "Ten minutes to play, it's going to seem like an hour," said Hugh Cahill, by then Donal so appalled by what he was witnessing, he was close enough to being rendered speechless.

Thereafter? Sure lookit, ye of little faith. Jack Conan. Try. "BE RUTHLESS, FINISH THEM OFF," Donal bellowed, like it was a chance for revenge for Skibbereen, Finlay Bealham obliging, bonus point sorted, emergency over.

“If you said to anyone you’d get a bonus point win at Twickenham, they’d have taken your hand off,” said Flannery, while conceding that the performance, unlike the result, wasn’t perfect.

Jacqui, meanwhile, doffed her cap to the heroism of 14-man England. “Spare a thought for them tonight,” she said.

“I won’t,” said Jamie, Jerry and Eddie nodding violently.

Jamie, though, was being Jamie, talking about “work-ons”, “learnings” and the like, but generally declaring himself to be chuffed with the result. All of which did nothing for Eddie O’Sullivan’s post-match mood. “I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid on this one, this was a pretty poor performance . . . our scrum was a mess, our discipline was awful, our handling errors were off the charts.”

“We’re making a mountain out of a molehill here,” Jerry argued.

Eddie: “They did what they had to do in the last 10 minutes, but the first 20 were pretty abysmal.”

He was having none of this happiness lark.

“Zero craic Eddie,” said Jerry.

Still, though, if we’re peeved with a bonus-point triumph in Twickenham, no matter the ropiness of the performance, no matter the required work-ons and learnings, our lads must be useful. Anyone who says otherwise? Zero craic.