Day Six and Richard Sadlier's cheeks were sizzling when Tony O'Donoghue introduced him as "the thinking woman's Eamon Dunphy", the implication being, of course, that if you're not a thinking type, then you prefer Eamon Dunphy. Harsh.
And, you feared, it might have led to some internal RTÉ World Cup squad tensions, a bit like the Dutch used to have before they started loving each other. "Now, now lads, there's no 'I' in team," Bill van Herlihy would have pleaded as it all kicked off in the Montrose dressing room, while Ossie Ardiles tried to separate the Dunphy/Giles/Ronnie and Tony/Kenny/Richard factions.
And then Tony finished up by describing Richard as “very beautiful”, the insinuation being that Eamon was no oil painting, the conflict now intense enough to have Ban Ki-moon tossing and turning at night.
Come the moments before kick-off in the Brazil v Mexico game, though, any thinking woman (or even man) couldn’t but feel love for Eamon when he uttered the immortal words: “We’re not on air, are we?”
And which one of us hasn’t been there, thinking, say, Granny was out of earshot when we emoted in a decidedly indelicate way?
Back from the break .
Eamon to Kenny and Didi: “The pitch was a ****ing bog.”
Eamon: “When Neymar was shaping up to take that penalty I thought he was ****ing dreading it.”
Bill: “We’re on air.”
Eamon: “We’re not, are we?”
Bill: “We are.”
Didi and Kenny’s faces: [WTF]
Eamon: “I apologise for that.”
Bill: “Obviously that was an inexactitude.”
Eamon: [Looking over his shoulder to check with studio people that his remarks were indeed broadcast live to the nation].
Bill: “Sorry about our hiccup there, it was entirely accidental.”
It was, then, a bleepety bleep day for RTÉ, much to the nation’s devilish amusement, the gut reaction to Bill’s earlier request for questions on Twitter for the panel “with hashtag #askthepanel”: “Noooooo!”
He read out some of them, but skipped a few (which we’d love to repeat here, but we’re trying to avoid a ‘we’re not on air, are we?’ moment). Some of the printable ones, which Bill neglected to mention: “Who is this “Lakuku” chap that Eamon spoke about earlier - thought I knew all the Belgian players already?”
"What is Bill's favourite biscuit, and why?"; "If I was to drink a shot of vodka every time Kenny Cunningham raised his eyebrows mid sentence, how close would I be to death?"; "How does Didi Hamann feel about sharing opinions with people who've achieved about as much as Enda Kenny?"; "Any chance Ossie can speak a bit slower or could we have subtitles?"
And the best: “Do ye like sandwiches?”
So, that worked well.
What worked even better was a question from a woman whose name, Eamon reckoned, sounded like KD Lang (“I’ve a constant craving to butt ya,” Kenny mumbled to himself), which country would the panel like to play for at this World Cup?
Didi: “Ghana, for the craic.” Who knew? Rascal.
Eamon: “I’d like to play for Mexico, I’ll let people work out why.” Burritos, they’re hard to resist.
Kenny: “I’d like to play in the English back four to have a bird’s eye views of the outstanding talent up front.” At which point Eamon nearly had to be strapped to his seat. This Kenny v Eamon contest is lively, you sense there’s more love between Gary Lineker and Piers Morgan.
The football? Oh yeah, that.
Of course, if you’d a Euro for every time ‘Belgium’, ‘dark’ and ‘horses’ appeared in the same sentence of late, you’d buy Belgium, and if you’d a Euro for every time folk contrasted Marouane Fellaini’s heroics with his club season just past, you’d buy several Belgiums. But Kenny reckoned his true quality had shone yesterday, suggesting the problem wasn’t with Marouane, it was with the way he was deployed by his gaffer last season.
Eamon didn’t quite agree. “He is actually embarrassed at this level with the ball at his feet.” “No, no, NO way,” said Kenny, Didi stuck in the middle, wanting to say “Marouane is neither Messi nor a mule, he’s somewhere in between”. But he knew there was no point, so he surrendered, Eamon and Kenny now pushing each other so far to the extremes, they’re likely to fall off the Marouane edge.
On to Brazil. If that’s Samba football, we’ll take Riverdance.
“The game is obviously dead in the country,” said Eamon, which is probably a bit previous, but after last night it was tempting to dish out the last rites.
Bill [still pale-faced]: “Now, before the game you might have heard the use of an unfortunate word, so I’ll hand you over to Eamon.”
Eamon [slightly smiling, which made you sense the forthcoming apology would be Bill Clinton-ish, ie “I will try to look very contrite, but for gawd’s sake, it was just a bit of fun with an intern: lighten up”]: “I’d just like to apologise, I thought we were on an ad break and I used a four letter word I’m very, very sorry for the offence I’m sure I caused to some people, it won’t happen again.”
Well, that’s a shame. As Didi might put it, “that was the wery best of craic.”