TV View: Cursing Gerson as World Cup hopes snuffed out before they get going
Kenny Cunningham impressed with Luxembourg legs at the Aviva
Luxembourg striker Gerson Rodrigues celebrates scoring the winning goal during the World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/AFP via Getty Images
Unseemly as it might be, it’s fairly inevitable after a sporting calamity that a scapegoat will be sought, someone at whom we can vent our fury and blame for all our woes when, the truth is, no one person should really be singled out. Collective responsibility, and all that.
Still, though, what was George Hamilton thinking when he said, with seven minutes and 58 seconds to go, “there’s an awful empty feeling beginning to develop that this might well not progress beyond 0-0”?
And with that Gerson Rodrigues scored.
“It’s gone from bad to worse,” he sighed.
There was a time when, with the likes of Luxembourg in mind, you’d dispute that old cherry about there being no easy games in international football, now we can offer ourselves as an example to dismiss the theory. “Even Qatar aren’t going to be scared of us,” said Phil Babb on Sky while previewing Tuesday’s must-win friendly against the 2022 World Cup hosts in Hungary. “And why would they be?”
Indeed, considering Qatar beat Luxembourg last Wednesday, there’s a chance they’ll rest some of their household names for their game against us. Mind you, Kenny Cunningham was quite impressed by Luxembourg in that friendly, having had to watch it as part of his RTÉ homework, Richie Sadlier probably claiming his electricity had been cut off just so he could get out of it.
And lest there was any danger that our boys would be a bit complacent going in to the game, ‘Stephen Kenny’ had a motivational video up his sleeve, as he told Virgin Media on Friday night. “We’ll remind them of what a shower of b**tards we’re playing,” he said.
“What did Luxembourg ever do to us?”
“The famine, think of that. Where were they? They didn’t give us a penny. 1916 – they went about their business like nothing happened. The AstraZeneca vaccine, too – I think they stopped some of that coming over.”
Any hows, as the clock ticked down towards Luxembourg’s triumph and the heavens opened, George had the sound of a man who only ever wanted to commentate on the Irish women’s hockey team again. “Luxembourg cry tears of joy as the sky over Dublin 4 weeps tears of pain,” he lamented, although, in truth, the skies over Dublin 4 were probably still raining fireworks after Leinster’s Pro 14 win over Munster earlier in the day.
“Do we have a player of the match,” he asked Stephen Kelly, nearly choking in the process, to which Stephen replied “eh..........”. Sponsorship issues mean this award has to go to an Irish player, so Stephen’s shortlist was blank, but he dug deep and produced Séamus Coleman.
If Eamon Dunphy had been on panel duty, that ship stuck in the Suez Canal couldn’t even have carried the number of biros he’d have wanted to chuck about the place, although Richie and Darragh Maloney had the look of men who wished Kenny C was stranded on board on the MV Ever Given.
He argued that Luxembourg were quite good, so there was no great shame in the result.
Darragh: “That’s Luxembourg! The 98th ranked team in the world!”
Kenny C: “It’s too lazy to say ‘ah, that’s Luxembourg’!”
Darragh: “Séamus Coleman says he’s embarrassed!”
Kenny C: “I wasn’t embarrassed!”
Kenny C: “Luxembourg had plenty of legs all over the pitch!”
The audience: “They had the same number as us – 22!”
Back on Sky, Babb was trying to give his punditry some legs, but he was struggling. “It’s quite hard to take positives out of that,” he concluded, so understated an observation it would be akin to saying the MV Ever Given has caused the Suez Canal some difficulties.
Come Sunday, ITV’s Mark Pougatch apologetically asked Roy Keane for his thoughts on Lux-gate ahead of the Albania v England game, having already unapologetically boasted about the amount of “new talent rolling off England’s production line”.
“Rock bottom,” said Roy, before asking England for their spares – eg Jack Grealish, Declan Rice, Patrick Bamford and Harry ‘Galway Blood, English heart’ Kane, instead of their leftover supply of AstraZeneca.
Na, he didn’t. But he bloody well should have.