TV View: Ireland take the hard road and shimmy down the drainpipe

Eamon Dunphy wonders why Martin O’Neill’s didn’t take the lift against Georgia

James McClean hits the crossbar during the World Cup Group D qualifier against Georgia at Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It was a couple of years back that the long retired netbuster Mick Quinn, while chatting on TalkSPORT, posed one of the great footballing questions, its distinction down largely to the fact that it was unsolvable:

"Does Paolo Di Canio look like Jimmy Nesbitt, or is it Jimmy Nesbitt who looks like Paolo Di Canio?"

You could have pondered over that forever and a day, but you'll have to put your pondering on pause because ahead of our 97th meeting with Georgia in three months, Eamon Dunphy outdid Quinny with a question for the ages:

“If you’re on the fifth floor of a hotel, to go out to the front door and get a taxi, why would you go down the drainpipe instead of taking the lift?”


Darragh Maloney, Richie Sadlier and Liam Brady offered only silence as a response.

“Take the lift,” advised Dunphy.

Late tuner-inners might have found this segment a little baffling. Had Dunphy tried to depart, say, The Shelbourne, by drainpipe one evening and decided while Dublin Fire Brigade were trying to rescue him like a kitten up a tree that he’d made wiser decisions in his life?

No. His point was that Martin O’Neill had chosen the drainpipe route to beat Georgia, when if he’d opted for the lift then it’d be three World Cup qualifying points in the bag without a whole lot of perspiration and anxiety being generated.

“My initial reaction is surprise bordering on shock,” he said on seeing O’Neill’s chosen XI, “it’s almost as if they put the names in a hat and pulled them out.”

He was, in fact, so annoyed by the selection that he was even being nice about the omitted Glenn Whelan. It's not that he was hailing him as the new Claude Makelele, it was just that he's not worse than James McCarthy, which is kind of akin to saying your GP is brutal but at least he's not Harold Shipman.

"Off the charts mad," he concluded, his primary concern, need it be said, the inclusion of McCarthy and the pairing of Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark in the centre of defence, the benched John O'Shea elevated to Franco Baresi levels.

Over on Sky, meanwhile. "Delighted to see McCarthy back, I think Ronald Koeman was hoping he wouldn't play but he's in and that's good for us," beamed Niall Quinn. "I like it, it's a really good balanced team."

Doctors differ . . .

The mood darkened further when Richie showed us clips of the lads being dire against Serbia, the Statto telling us that we only produced one completed pass a minute.

Earlier, incidentally, Richie had tweeted a photo of himself in the bath – well, just his foot – while doing his research for the game, a big telly just a few feet from his toes. Either his telly is in his bathroom, which is dangerous, or his bath is in his living room, which is weird.

Any way, Dunphy took from Richie’s clips that the worst pub team in Europe could pass the ball better, dating our struggles in that department back to Jack Charlton’s reign, noting that Jack “even threw Liam Brady out the window from the fifth floor”. A fifth floor theme was, oddly, developing here.

“We could win 5-0 tonight and it wouldn’t make the team selection right,” he said. With a straight face.

Nearly match time, but first Richie reminded us that the only nations to ever lose a competitive game at home to Georgia were the Faroe Islands and Gibraltar. That should have been a hopeful note, but he struck it a bit ominously.

First half. The worst thing is, we were missing ‘The Great British Menu’ for this muck. The dessert course too.

“I thought this would be a night for patience, but Christ this has been really difficult to watch,” said Richie, who had the look of a man who wished he was back in his living room bath watching desserts being constructed by masterchefs.

Darragh just wondered what the heckety heck had happened to the Ireland that performed rather splendidly against, say, Italy and France in Euro 2016. Dunphy explained: "They're not playing!" Perhaps for fear Dunphy would head for the fifth floor, Darragh hadn't the heart to tell him only Richard Keogh and Daryl Murphy were absent, the rest of the team being entirely the same.

Second half. Gawd bless his Killybegs spun socks. True, Séamus Coleman might not win Goal of the Month for October, but it’ll do. Nicely.

Dunphy paid tribute to the game-winner. "The goal was extremely strange, you could write an Agatha Christie mystery about it . . . Lionel Messi would've been proud, [Coleman] played seven one-twos, all with Georgian players – and the goalkeeper is a clown."

Never mind, points in the bag, even if they came via the drainpipe.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times