TV View: Copacabana dream recedes as Ireland’s faint hopes unravel

Panel left down in the dumps as a night that started hopeful-ish ends in Hopelostville

Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Richard Dunne of Ireland. Photograph: Inpho

Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Richard Dunne of Ireland. Photograph: Inpho


To a man, the panel had a good feeling about the game, leaving Bill O’Herlihy in high spirits and the rest of us in fretful despair. No offence, like, but when the panel is feeling hopeful-ish, it oft signals a night where hope fizzles out and you’re left concluding football is no longer worth the pain.

“Will it be like Paris,” Bill even asked and while the panel couldn’t promise such a heady night, they were, indeed, hopeful-ish of a keeping-the-Rio-dream-alive triumph.

Well summered the lads looked too, incidentally, to the point where you thought the ‘colour up’ button had got struck, a caramel-ish glow emanating from the screen.

What introduced a little tension to the panel was Tony O’Donoghue’s report that there was divil a sign of tension in the camp, all concerned upbeat and relaxed. John Giles, especially, didn’t like that, tension was an important asset on a night like this, he said but still added, “I fancy us to win, Bill”.

Bill added to the buoyancy by digging out one of his stats.

“D’you know what’s an amazing record – we’ve never lost a match with (Marc) Wilson playing.”

This led to the only pre-match hint of a quarrel between Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady…..

Eamon: “That’s pretty good ….he was banished for two years in a case of mistaken identity.”

Liam: “Allegedly.”

Eamon: “No, he was.”

Liam: “According to you.”

Eamon: “No! Will ya stop.”

… but, on the whole, there was optimistic-ish unity, the feeling bolstered when Giovanni Trapattoni guaranteed that his players would play with “enthusiasmus”.

Bit mournful
A new pitch, a full house, what more could you want? Maybe a jauntier national anthem? That one was a bit mournful, but other than that, all set.

Ronnie Whelan, though, sounded a note of caution, while Eamon had told us Sweden were “no great shakes”, Ronnie reckoned we shouldn’t assume they’d arrive in Dublin intent on keeping their hosts’ Rio-dream-alive.

But. “I just can’t understand why Ireland don’t beat the teams higher than them in the rankings,” he added, the answer possibly in his query.

Meanwhile, “Who are ya”, the crowd sang in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s direction, and you had a sinking feeling they might be more familiar with him come the game’s end.

Still, Ronnie complained that the “sulky superstar”, as Bill had dubbed him, was afforded too much protection by referees, “it seems to me you’re not allowed kick Ibrahimovic”. Well….

Any way, Rio seemed only around the corner when Robbie Keane did his thing, his 936th goal for his country, or something along those lines.

Bill was right, it was like Paris all over again. But by half-time, the crowd had ceased crooning “who are ya?” after Ibrahimovic started the move that led to the flippin’ equaliser. “That was as good as the Irish goal,” said George Hamilton, which wasn’t entirely true, Elmander’s header of the very fine bullet-like variety, from a rather delicious Lustig cross, while Robbie’s goal, Ronnie had claimed, needed the help of the wind.

The panel? Hopeful-ish-ness seemed to have faded a bit, “it’s like a schoolboy match, it’s dreadful,” said Giles of the Irish team’s tendency to bunch together and chase the ball as one. Eamon wanted them to spread out a little, use the width of the pitch. That would help, Bill reckoned. “Don’t hold your breath,” said Giles.

Second half. Well, “who are ya?” did it again, the sulky superstar making what proved to be the winner for Elmander.

“All of a sudden Rio seems a long, long way away,” George sighed.

He was dejected, noting that our World Cup dreams are “just like the jumper that got caught on the nail, the wool has started to unravel”.

Soon after. “If the jumper was unravelling, it’s completely threadbare now.” “What’s with the jumper thing George,” Ronnie almost asked.

Not even a pitch invader could lighten George’s mood, even if it made the spectators smile.

“The crowd deciding this is something amusing,” he said, before the camera picked out one of our former internationals. “Chris Hughton deciding to take a picture of it all,” said George, in a slightly disapproving tone.

“But he’s got nail varnish on,” noted Ronnie, spotting that it was, in fact, the woman in front of our Chris.

“Amazing the foreshortening effect of a television lens,” said George, “I wouldn’t accuse him of that, no.”

Well, that wasn’t very progressive of George, but he was in no mood to be all-embracing, certainly not if Chris was wearing nail varnish, his keeping-the-Rio-dream hopes down the Swanny.

Bill was no less distraught. This wasn’t Paris, it was Hopelostville.

“So gentlemen,” he said, “our dreams of a couple of days on Copacabana seem to be gone.” The quartet on Copacabana? The image will live with us forever.

Eamon? “Despair.” Etc.

His enthusiasmus for the manager gone the way of our Rio dreams. He mightn’t be alone, you know.