Sometimes you’ve got to embrace the madness that is football

You. Could. Not. Write. The. Script. You couldn’t, you absolutely totally utterly couldn’t

From the Dáil to Deutschland, a Tuesday to put the fear of Gawd in you. And come evening Eamon Dunphy was left trembling and aghast by the austerity measures employed:

Wes Hoolahan dropped. It made Michael Noonan look like a 1-4-5 man, he concluded (although, not in so many words).

It wasn't entirely a surprise, after Martin O'Neill had praised the fella on Saturday by noting he was always very good at the "*****AVIVA*****", but still, after that pass for Robbie's first goal, which would have had Lionel Messi tweeting "OMG!!!!!" if he'd been watching, and should have had his shirt number retired, you lived in hope he'd be doing his thing in Gelsenkirchen.

Liam Brady, though, tried to dampen our ardour and break it to us that Wes, majestic as he is, is not necessarily the Second Coming, reminding us that while he excelled against an outfit called Gibraltar, and – paraphrasing here – your late grandmother could dribble through their defence and score. But still, he was sad too that Wes was benched – not half as sad as the Dunph, mind.


He reminisced fondly, for example, about Wes running the show for Norwich at Anfield “a year or 18 months ago”, but seeing as he was taken off after an hour in a 5-1 defeat last season, and was only a sub in a 0-5 setback the year before, he might have been thinking of the 1-1 in October 2011.

Time flies

That’s the thing with football, though, time flies faster than in any other walk of life. Take John O’Shea: 100 caps (or 99 if you’re a Fifa pedant), when some of us still remember him in short pants. He had a chat with Tony before the game to mark the occasion, and chuckled about his goal-scoring record. Miserable. So there was as much chance of him netting in Gelsenkirchen as there was of Gibraltar qualifying for Euro 2016.

“I think Hoolahan is a wonderful player,” the Dunph emoted. “People say ‘why isn’t he playing in the Premier League?’ Well, some of the biggest eejits in the world are managing Premier League clubs.”

That was a reasonable point, of course, as was his observation that “you can’t play football without the football”, thanking Jogi Löw for his compliments for the Irish fighting spirit, but noting that was bugger all use without the occasional possession of the spherical object.

Was he done on Wes? Almost. His exclusion “defies all the laws of football gravity - it’s nonsense!”. Done? Nearly. “It’s bonkers!” Ready to move on? “I don’t know what Whelan brings to the team at all! Wes Hoolahan . . .”.

You get the drift?

On the positive side, Tony O'Donoghue reported Germany had flu. Not that we, as a nation, would celebrate such a misfortune, although the "Olé Olé Olés" from Buncrana to Ballybunion were a bit deafening.

But Germany were at full strength, if you excluded the 15 World Cup squad members unavailable through injury, retirement and assorted reasons, so the mood on the panel was grim. “I think Germany are favourites to win,” said Eamon, and Darragh Maloney’s face said: “Next you’ll be telling us water is wet.” “I’m not as optimistic as I’d like to be,” Eamon continued, and Liam and the Giles men nodded as one. Inevitable defeat, then, but by half-time Brazil could only purr.



George Hamilton

sounded a little downhearted when he said “if we could just, for a period, pass the ball to each other . . .”, but Samba hoofing and our boys went in 0-0.

Eamon ecstatic? Completely. Ish. “To be perfectly frank, it’s Trapattoni . . . (pause) . . . with a Derry accent.” Oh. “That’s all it is. No conviction, no belief . . . we’re not present when a football is around.”

Done? “This is terrible! Lumping it! Look at that! That’s the best of the Irish by the way,” he said, as we were shown our first half highlights.

Did Wes get a mention? Does the Pope, you know, in the woods? Eamon by now suggesting Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady and Jon Walters were all playing in Wes's position, which means Wes is three times the man you thought he was.

Second half. All good. Watertight. And then Toni Kroos, the fecker. As good as over. 0-1. Look, not bad.

Wait. WAIT. As George Hamilton put it, so succinctly: O’SheaaaaaaaaaAAAaaaAAAaa AAAaaAAaaAAAaaaAAaaaAAaaa.”

And then: “You. Could. Not. Write. The. Script.” You couldn’t, you absolutely totally bloody utterly couldn’t. And for all their limitations, you half suspected that was the moment the public might just find a place in their hearts for this team again.

Back in the studio, the Dunph called to mind that David Feherty quote about Colin Montgomerie: you know, having a face like a bulldog licking its own p**s off a nettle.

“We could have been four down when we equalised.”

True. But sometimes you’ve just got to embrace the madness that is football, and love it.