Euro 2016 TV View: Negatives in studio and positives on the pitch

Mary Hannigan: Panels are great, but the action turns out to be more interesting

Kick-off: Darragh Maloney  made a schoolboy error: he asked Eamon and Liamo if they were excited too. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kick-off: Darragh Maloney made a schoolboy error: he asked Eamon and Liamo if they were excited too. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

The wait had seemed interminable, and it kind of was, it being seven-ish months since Jonathan Walters beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs. But at last here we were: Euro 2016 was finally upon us, Darragh Maloney giving us a big, smiley welcome, the fella as exuberant as ourselves. But then he made a schoolboy error: he asked Eamon and Liamo if they were excited too.

By the time they were done, Darragh’s face had a “sorry I asked” look, while Didi Hamann’s said something like, ‘ah jaysus’. The opening ceremony hadn’t even kicked off, never mind the first game, and Eamon and Liamo were disillusioned.

Didi reckoned the expanded tournament was terrific for small teams such as Albania and us, which we could have found offensive, but Eamon thought it was a muck idea, one that came about for commercial and political reasons, as if those who run football would ever be so cynical.  

“You could have a bad tournament and a lot of dreary games,” he said. “I mean, I wouldn’t be looking forward to Romania v Albania, for example. You could get a lot of stuff.”

Darragh: “Liam? Are you excited?”

Liamo: “No, I would agree with what Eamon said: I think we could be in for a negative tournament.”

Didi to himself: “If it’s as negative as these guys vee are totally screwed.”

And then Liamo forecast a negative opening game that would see Romania putting 10 men behind the ball “trying to get that 0-0”.

There was no option but to hop over to ITV just for a break. Cripes, we were treated to an intense and surreal upbeatedness in the form of 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and Louis Saha at the Eiffel Tower fan zone, the pair almost eating their microphones through sheer ecstasy.

Star turn

Slaven, sandwiched between Lee Dixon and Emmanuel Petit, with Mark Pougatch the host, was the evening’s star turn, partly because he spent much of his time doodling on his pad like he was trying to alleviate the boredom, partly because he had done something to his hair that was simply inexplicable, and partly because when he talks about Dimitri Payet you can almost hear his heart beat from your couch. As he put it recently: “I have to get poetry lessons to describe his importance to us.”

The expansion of the European Championships? Positivity alert! “It’s great for football,” he said. “Can you imagine the atmosphere in Iceland, Albania? They are living the dream, it is great!”

Lee? “Well, it’s an extra workload for us lot doing the tournament.”

Back to RTÉ and Darragh was still seeking positives. How’d he do? Not great. Eamo talked about the risk of negatives in the Irish camp after Roy’s verbal lashing of a player or three, then mourned the absence of the injured Harry Arter, his new Andy Reid, our midfield banjaxed without him, and then he said France didn’t like their national team because they’re a shower of overpaid self-absorbed dorks. Or something.

By now you wouldn’t have blamed Darragh and Didi if they had headed for the pub. But chirpy relief was brought by George Hamilton and Ronnie Whelan’s joy-jammed commentary on the opening ceremony.

‘Lovely garden’

And who will ever forget the moment George uttered the words, “here comes David Guetta and his decks”, the happening dude that he is, and Ronnie rocking out to I’ve Got A Feelin’ “This is more my music!” – after he had fallen silent during the Edith Piaf bit.

The match? Oh yeah. It finished in a draw . . . no . . . wait. Payeeeeeet. Heavens. Slaven needed more poetry lessons. And ITV might pay for them after that half-time hiccup when he uttered the immortal and slightly unfathomable line: “It is not the centre back, you know what I mean, then you go like, f**k me.”

We’re up and running.

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