TV View: Here’s to you Mr Robinson, thanks for keeping the budget blues at bay

Didi Hamann doubles down on Stephen Kenny criticism ahead of big win

Usually on Budget Day it's case of doing a Callum Robinson and sticking your fingers in your ears, going 'la, la, la, la, don't want to hear' and avoiding RTÉ like the plague. But on this particular October Tuesday, RTÉ did the State's football-loving-budget-phobic folk some service by providing six non-stop hours of Republic of Ireland football coverage.

For that distraction alone, they deserve a licence fee hike.

Up first was coverage of our under-21's Euro 2023 qualifier away to Montenegro, Stephen Kelly reminiscing wistfully about his days at that level when the team never made it to the European Championships.

Darragh Maloney, though, reminded him that he did at least captain an under-21 side, that included the likes of Glenn Whelan, Kevin Doyle, Willo Flood and Daryl Murphy, that won the 2004 Madeira International Tournament, beating Italy, Portugal (and Madeira) to the trophy.


Mercifully, Darragh didn't point out that Gavin Bazunu turned two a week before Big Phil Scolari presented Stephen with the cup that February 2004 day, because who wants to be reminded that they're archaic?

No matter. High hopes going in to the game in Podgorica. Nine minutes in to which our lads were 2-0 down.

"We looked a little like rabbits in headlights," as Lisa Fallon put it at half-time. And then Mark McGuinness pulled one back, and then the ref finally decided that when an Irish player is fouled in the box a penalty should be awarded. Which one was. And it was saved. And you'd be wanting your licence fee back.

(Man of the Match? This couch is going for commentator Cathal Mullaney, a newbie to most telly ears who has the loveliest of knacks of not feeling the need to fill every nano second with idle chat, only commentating when commentating is actually necessary. That's a skill in itself, knowing that the odd lull here and there isn't actually a crime against humanity. A star is born, like.)

But we digress.

On to the Big Lads’ game, Qatar the visitors, our hopes of dropping in to their gaff next year for the shindig they’ll be hosting ending a bit ago.

Still, the encounter had been officially labelled ‘a World Cup preparation match’, despite us having no World Cup to prepare for, this being Fifa-speak for, you know, a ‘friendly’.

After he'd been a touch unsupportive of Stephen Kenny on Saturday, Didi Hamann's punditry earned the opprobrium of Eamon Dunphy – "drivel!" – so, you'd have assumed he'd meekly back down.


“I think Stephen Kenny is very fortunate to still be in the job. If he wasn’t a League of Ireland man, if he wasn’t one of your own, I don’t think he’d be in the job any more.”

Tesco’s Finest, the Dunph’s podcast sponsor, makes a very fine mash, just check next time you buy it that Didi isn’t shredded through it.

Lisa tried to educate Didi, who most probably knows as much about Stephen Kenny’s track record as he does about Neven Maguire’s stuffed roast goose recipe, recalling her time working with Cork City when coming up against Dundalk was an unending challenge because, under Kenny, “they always found ways to win”.

Didi possibly never heard of Done Dawk, but cool the boots, no harm in having an outside set of eyes laying their gaze on our lads’ progress, or lack of it. We’re mad sensitive.

Kick-off time, a 25,000 (Covid) full house, the natives very clearly behind the Kenny man. They had to adapt their tune, though, to ‘Come on you Boys in Blue’ in honour of the night’s commemorative kit, and not the Garda Síochána.

"Every game becomes a referendum," said Darragh, so by the time our Callum completed his hat-trick, making it just the five goals in two games, that was Didi, Joe Duffy and Tony Holohan told. Because, as we know, scoring a hat-trick against Qatar justifies vaccine hesitancy.

Tony O'Donoghue told Callum that he'd just scored the first Republic of Ireland hat-trick since Robbie Keane achieved the feat in 2014, Callum's resulting smile measuring in or around the width of the Lansdowne pitch, multiplied by two.

He returned home with the match ball, with Didi’s praise ringing in his team’s ears. “Qatar’s been dreadful, but you can only beat what’s in front of you . . . Ireland could have had six or seven.”

Sure look, we’ll settle for the four, it took our minds off the budget, it was two wins on the trot, our Callum is a goal machine, and Stephen Kenny is beaming.

Happy out.