TV View: Butt-gusting James McClean has us on our feet

In these barren times we’ll take what we can get even if the TV picture does freeze

Ireland’s James McClean celebrates scoring their first goal during the friendly win over Qatar. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Ireland’s James McClean celebrates scoring their first goal during the friendly win over Qatar. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

You take pleasure where you can find it these days. Like the man who took an anti-clockwise stroll with his dog through the park the other day, rather than taking his usual clockwise route, declaring this anarchy to be the most exhilarating thing he’d done since March of last year. “It was just something different,” he said.

He came to mind after our draw with Qatar in a game we knew, in light of recent events, was never going to be a walk in the park, clockwise or otherwise.

But the cynics among us would argue that drawing with Qatar - joint 58th in the world rankings with Burkina Faso - in a friendly in an empty stadium in Debrecen just a few days after losing a World Cup qualifier at home to Luxembourg - ranked at 98, two places below Kyrgyz Republic - was not a sufficient reason to break open the bubbly.

Look it, like the man in the park, why wouldn’t you celebrate small things when you’ve had nothing big to be exhilarated about for over a year? So, hush.

“It’s a friendly match, but it seems like so much more,” as Karen Duggan told Darragh Maloney in the build-up, a build-up that, incidentally, lasted 45 minutes, excluding ads, interviews and mournful montages about the state of our national team. Karen, then, along with Kevin Doyle, had a heap of time to fill ahead of a game that shouldn’t have mattered, but did.

Darragh, at least, was able to bring us some good news, Azerbaijan’s defeat by Serbia seeing them replace us at the bottom of our World Cup qualifying group, zero points between the pair of us, but God bless goal difference.

Team news, just the eight changes, Kevin very happy to see a bunch of the old(er) guard recalled. He was chuffed, too, to see we’d be playing with a “fat black four” and was hopeful that instead of playing with two holding midfielders, at least one of them would make “butt-gusting runs” to assist the frontline efforts to insert the ball in the net.

What about Qatar? Well, he reckoned their sole ambition for the 2022 tournament was “not to make a show of themselves”. If that sounded disrespectful and it was a bit but, no more than ourselves, Kevin doesn’t seem to be mad well up on Arab state football.

Kevin: “We played Bahrain a few times....”

Darragh: “Oman?”

Kevin: [THINKS]”Oman!”

Prediction time. “I’d take a 1-0, 2-1, anything,” said Karen with fingers, toes and earlobes crossed, Kevin nodding violently.

Anthems time. Let’s just say, George Hamilton won’t be adding either teams’ efforts to his Lyric FM playlist any time soon. Jesus.

But he might be tempted to include Kenny Cunningham’s analysis of the Qatari team which was a work of art in itself, Kenny taking his pre-match homework duties so seriously he could most probably have told you the name of Qatar’s third choice left-back’s milkman’s mother-in-law’s hairdresser. Remember them? :-(

“Keep an eye on a couple of these players, George - Khoukhi (or “Cookie”, as Kenny called him) at centre half, very composed, great legs; Boudiaf, controls things from midfield, and of course, Alhaydos, he’s the one ..... their inspiration; and real legs and physicality upfront with Muntari and Ali.”

George didn’t respond, possibly in no position to dispute Kenny’s assessment of our opponents, and he was rendered speechless too when Kenny later likened Boudiaf to Sergio Busquets.

Anyway, three and a half minutes in: GOOOOOOOOOL. James McClean with a butt gusting effort to get on the end of Daryl Horgan’s nifty pass from, what they call in the trade, a well-worked corner. So, frankly, we were all set for a romp. “It’s been night and day,” said Karen at the break, comparing the performance against Luxembourg with this one, Kevin no less content.

Two-ish minutes in to the second half, though, and Muntari and his real legs only went and equalised for Qatar, leaving our footballing heads spinning in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction all at the same time.

Soon after, if you get your telly from a certain company, the picture froze, Alhaydos pointing to his left for around 20 minutes. At times like this you do, of course, check the Tweet machine to see if you alone are experiencing this techy calamity, or whether it’s an Ireland-wide fault. It was with some relief, then, that this message was spotted from a Shane Cahill:

“Hi @SkyIreland - I’d like to renew my contract as a massive thank you for stopping me watching Ireland vs Qatar, lifesavers.”

Eventually, RTÉ restored. “Eleven games without a win,” Kevin sighed. “Now we’re going to the summer, we’re playing Andorra in a friendly ... you’re even worried about that.”

Indeed, your butt would be gusted from it all, clockwise and anti-clockwise.

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