TV View: Aggression on the pitch and in the studio

Eamon was upbeat about McCarthy’s absence but still reckoned we’d get a battering

Ireland’s Glenn Whelan with Referee Nicola Rizzoll after he fouled Joe Allen of Wales. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland’s Glenn Whelan with Referee Nicola Rizzoll after he fouled Joe Allen of Wales. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

You just know there’s a whiff of World Cup qualification in the air when you find yourself glued to Georgia v Serbia live on Sky Sports at tea-time and almost choking on a mushroom when Nika Kacharava gives Georgia the lead before chucking your potato waffle at the screen when Otar Kakabadze gives away a soft penalty for Serbia to equalise before finally quitting your browse on CheapestWayToTravelToRussia.com when Serbia score two more in the second half.

Our spot at the top of the table pilfered, then, so Wales would have to be seen off if some leapfrogging was to be done.

And it’s been a while since our last qualifier, October to be precise, back when Hillary Clinton was picking the wallpaper for the White House and Donald Trump was all set to return to tycooning having run a plucky but inevitably unsuccessful campaign. That long.

It’s a huge risk and he’s not a very good player any way

Our lads’ campaign has, of course, been bordering on the perfect so far, as Darragh Maloney reminded us before introducing a montage thingie that was a play on Into The West called Into The East – it being the general location of Russia – which had some young fellas riding horses in inner city Dublin while waving tricolours. To be completely honest, it made as much sense to us as James McCarthy’s regular presence in the Irish midfield makes to Eamon Dunphy, so we’ll just have to move on.

And speaking of James. “He’s made a Lazarus-like recovery,” Tony O’Donoghue told us at team-news-time, he’d shaken off his injury and was raring to go. Eamon was predictably ecstatic. “It’s a huge risk and he’s not a very good player any way.”

Some time later, James was out again having injured himself in the warm-up. This now meant we were without James, Robbie Brady, Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy, Wes Hoolahan and Harry Arter, with no Daryl Murphy, David McGoldrick, Paul McShane or Rob Elliot on the bench either. Apart from that, full strength.

“It doesn’t weaken the team in any way,” said Eamon of James’s loss, “I’m much happier.”

That’s where the happiness ended though; the entire panel (Richie Sadlier and Liam Brady completing the line-up) so gloomy you’d have to do a double-take on the identity of the opposition lest a time machine had brought 1970 Brazil to Dublin for the kick-about.

Our tactics tonight? Just defend and get the ball to Gareth Bale

What didn’t lighten the mood was the ‘What We Are Missing’ compilation, as opposed to ‘This Is What We Have, So Let’s Get On With It’, which focussed on how brilliant our absent lads are, including clips of them being especially excellent against Oman last summer. “Everything that could possibly have gone wrong has gone wrong,” said Eamon with a heavy sigh, the absence of Wes in particular leaving him with the look of a man who wondered if we should even show up.

“I think they may prove to be crippling for us,” he said. “Really,” asked Darragh. “Yeah, I fear for tonight in a big way – and I’m normally optimistic.” “Ha, ha, good one,” Darragh heroically resisted replying.

The consensus, then, was that we’d do well to get a draw; Richie reckoning if we sat back “we’ll get mullered”, while Liam feared that the absence of all our players who can pass the ball would result in a hoof-a-rama of a night.

Over on Sky, meanwhile, Niall Quinn was promising that the 90 minutes ahead promised to be “better than any Premier League game we’ve seen lately” – his mind possibly still focused on the recent 0-0 between Sunderland and Burnley – while Dean Saunders wasn’t doing a great deal to dispel the notion that Wales are a one man team. “Our tactics tonight? Just defend and get the ball to Gareth Bale.”

Over to George and Ronnie. Anthem time. How do Welsh rugby supporters make Land of our Fathers sound like a gift from the heavens, while their football counterparts give it all the majesty of Agadoo?

A goalless first half and the panel was happy enough, even when they were treated to a compilation of our ‘good play’ which largely showed us losing the ball before briefly winning it back before losing it again.

“For now, we haven’t done anything stupid,” an impressed Eamon said in his salute to the team, before getting into an argument with Richie, whose jacket was playing havoc with our horizontal hold, over whether stray elbows are bad indiscipline or good aggression. Richie sensed things were getting a little too close to the edge. He wasn’t wrong.

Second half. Speaking of indiscipline and aggression. The best decision of the night was RTE’s during the game when they chose not to show a replay of that Seamus Coleman moment. Although they gave us a ‘look away now’ option when they replayed it after the game. You were blessed if you heeded their advice.

“That was a real stain on tonight’s match,” said Richie, before going at it again with Eamon, the former reckoning the night’s ugliness was a two-way street, the hosts contributing amply to it all, the latter reckoning the elbows and stamping and late tackles are standard fare in the Premier League every week. But…never mind.

As it proved, the night’s most memorable moment was Shane Long cradling Coleman’s head as he was being treated. Hard to even remember the result after that. Or even care.

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