TV View: Hold back on the open-top buses after Japan loss
Mary Hannigan: It’s never easy for our pundits at a time of national crisis like this
An Ireland supporter displays a poster before the World Cup Pool D match between Australia and Wales at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP
The morning after the morning before and there was Tommy Bowe on eir Sport, fresh as a daisy and all set for the 6:15am kick-off between Georgia and Uruguay, his enthusiasm for the World Cup undiminished despite that hic-cup in Shizuoka, his smile still capable of illuminating an entire rugby pitch in the event of floodlight failure.
(There was a time we might have chuckled at a game involving Tier Two teams, but we’re not chuckling anymore).
And Tommy couldn’t but be pleased for the World Cup hosts when his guest Scott Fardy, the Leinster old boy who had a spell in Japan, told him how much their victory over Ireland would mean to them, and how it would send excitement levels about the tournament in the direction of the stratosphere. “Well, I suppose we’re happy to take one for the competition,” said Tommy, which prompted Gordon D’Arcy to wiggle his left eyebrow.
Of course, it was but a week ago that our hopes were at stratospheric levels too, and here we are now, permutation-crunching with our calculators after the biggest sporting shock to take place on Japanese soil since Buster Douglas decked Mike Tyson.
And that permutation-crunching consensus would appear to be that we’ll either (a) be going home or (b) playing the All Blacks in the quarter-finals. Which is kind of the same thing, really.
We’ve learned a tough lesson, then: never again must we lose the run of ourselves, it rarely ends well. And that was the lesson that two-thirds of the panel that turned up on RTÉ’s Saturday evening show took from our humbling. The other third? “Whatever quarter-final Ireland get, it’s going to be blooming tough,” said Stephen Ferris, whose ceaseless good cheer makes Tommy look like a prophet of doom.
“Let’s just get to one first,” said Donncha O’Callaghan.
Fiona Coghlan, meanwhile, was pulling no punches – “we were out-thought, out-muscled and outplayed” – and when Stephen conceded we had no Plan B, her mood suggested she wasn’t sure we had much of a Plan A either.
But no one was waving a white flag, all concerned reckoned the damage was reparable, a couple of bonus-point wins over Russia and Samoa and maybe a Scotland triumph over Japan and as pool winners we could be knocked out by South Africa in the quarter-finals instead.
It’s never easy for our pundits at a time of national crisis like this, one half of the population demanding Hook-esque fury, despondency and rancourous recriminations, allied to a denunciatory dissection of our defective tactics; the other 50 per cent preferring a Heaslip-ish “ah sure lookit, these things happen, we’ll be grand next day” kind of thing.
And one half headbutting their livingroom walls at the mere mention of humidity, like that was the surname of Japan’s try scorer, while the other half is content to accept that as an explanation for our lads having as much energy as a burst balloon, thus accounting for the exceedingly bad day at the office.
A post-calamity mood somewhere in the middle is probably always best, a healthy blend of “ah sure lookit” and “SHAME!”, although you can’t begrudge anyone revisiting those pre-match predictions, some of which resembled English football managers’ takes on minnow-ish opposition (eg Bobby Robson: “We didn’t underestimate Cameroon, they were just a lot better than we thought”).
So: “I think when we beat the host nation . . . eh, if they beat the host nation . . . the Japanese people might get behind Ireland going forward in the tournament,” as said Stephen pre-match.
Come full time. Daire O’Brien: “Do we get behind Japan now?”
And when Stephen insisted that being decked by the Buster Douglas of world rugby wasn’t “the end of the world”, Daire’s stare, which read “it is – it really is”, must have nigh on pierced his soul.
The real hero of the weekend was Eddie O’Sullivan who didn’t once say “TOLD YOU SO!” to Stephen or Jamie, tempted as he might have been, despite having expressed severe reservations about their pre-tournament buoyancy, which stopped just short of the pair booking an open-top-bus for the lads’ return from Japan.
Back down to earth, then. No white flags. But no open-top buses booked either. As Bobby once put it, “people want success – it’s like coffee, they want instant”. Lookit, be patient.