TV View: Ireland get a shot in the arm but pundits pour vinegar all over the chips

Callum Robinson-inspired victory in Baku fails to change the narrative

It's unlikely he'll choose it as the title of his autobiography when he gets around to writing it, but 'From Vaccines and Virility To Victory' would at least sum up the week Stephen Kenny experienced, one he won't forget in any great hurry.

Three goals and three points from a competitive game so far from home a crow would have to fly almost 3,000 miles to get there, so no wonder he was beaming when he chatted with Tony O’Donoghue after the game.

“Stephen, what’s your players’ position on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine,” Tony didn’t ask, which would have added to the manager’s sense of relief, the focus finally on actual football.

He reserved special praise, of course, for Callum Robinson, but didn't speculate on whether the player had Nphet or a woman from Clontarf in mind with his fingers-in-ears celebration, nothing nor no one was going to take away from his contentment with the performance and result.


Phil Babb tried, though. "I'm not going to pour too much vinegar on anyone's chips, but let's put that win in context," he said on Sky after the game, leaving our chips drowned.

But that was positively upbeat next to Statler and Waldorf over on RTÉ, Didi Hamann and Richie Sadlier having the look of men who had just listened to Johnny Cash singing 'Hurt' before taking their seats.

"The result is of no significance whatsoever, this is a dead-rubber game," Richie had told us before kick-off, leaving Peter Collins worrying viewers would switch over to Kazakhstan v Bosnia-Herzegovina in their droves. "Are we going to finish the group bottom or not? Can we end the longest competitive run without a win in the history of the FAI? Can we have the first high point in the worst qualifying group in my lifetime?"

That teed the game up nicely, then, Didi adding to the chirpiness by suggesting that anything but a win in this deceased rubber and “I can’t see any reason why you would carry on with Kenny going in to the next campaign”.

Peter dug deep to extract a note of optimism from the lads, mentioning Kenny’s “philosophy”. Richie was having none of it. “We have to move away from the waffly, vague, abstract stuff about philosophy and vision and journey to ‘can he put out a team to beat Azerbaijan, 117th in the world?’”

If Peter had an iPod handy, he’d have stuck on Johnny Cash singing ‘Hurt’ just to cheer himself up.

But Uefa's graphic showing how Ireland would line out kinda underlined the fact that this is a team somewhat short of household names. Uefa, in fact, didn't appear to have heard of any of them, sort of having Gavin Bazunu playing in the hole behind the front one (Shane Duffy), Adam Idah partnering Robinson in the centre of an eight-man defence, John Egan playing right wing with Jeff Hendrick in goal. That's only a slight exaggeration.

Darragh Maloney and Ray Houghton were in the commentary box, although it wasn't clear if they were in Montrose or Baku. If they were in the stadium, they'd have doubled the attendance.

Seven minutes in and as Ray put it, “it had to be him, after the week he’s had”. And 39 minutes in, Robinson only went and did it again, leading to a nuanced argument on the interweb about him scoring twice against Azerbaijan silencing those who think vaccines are a good thing. We’re gas.

A bucketload more goal opportunities went a-begging, Ray looking on the bright side – “it’s nice to see Ireland make a lot of chances, to be in a position to miss” – until Chiedozie Ogbene made it 3-0 late on. “There’s so much joy going through my body right now,” he told Tony, but whatever was going through Didi’s body, it wasn’t joy.

“This performance alone is not enough to say Kenny’s the right man for the next campaign,” he said, “tonight they beat the number 117 in the world.”

But sure look, you can only beat what’s put in front of you, and when you do, go light on the vinegar, savour the chips.