TV View: Ireland thankful for small mercies as bellies edge closer to lift-off

Kenny and his players deserve a summer break following a difficult season

 Ireland’s James McClean  and Hungary’s Laszlo Kleinheisler during the international friendly match at Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest. Photograph: Trenka Atilla/PA Wire

Ireland’s James McClean and Hungary’s Laszlo Kleinheisler during the international friendly match at Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest. Photograph: Trenka Atilla/PA Wire

 

While our lads were on a roll heading in to their tussle with Hungary on Tuesday night, having won one game in-a-row, for some of us the pain of going a goal down to Andorra last Thursday evening still hadn’t quite eased, it kind of being our Davide Gualtieri moment.

For those of you too young to remember, like Gavin Bazunu and Troy Parrott, the pair of them born close enough to a decade after that fateful evening, Davide was the fella who waited a whole 8.3 seconds to score for San Marino against England in a World Cup qualifier in 1993.

The fact that England went on to win the game 7-1 has largely been forgotten, the shame of conceding to San Marino at all, never mind after 8.3 seconds, a stain on their footballing history.

Andorra’s goal was a little like that, the fact that our lads prevailed by a margin of four to one in the end overlooked on the whole, the football-loving section of the nation responding with one word to the concession of that goal: “Morto.”

That, of course, led to Peter Collins and Richie Sadlier being a bit short with each other when it came to their post-match summing up, Peter likening the victory to, say, beating the Italians in Giants Stadium (we’re totally exaggerating here, he said nothing of the sort), Richie wholly despondent, Ireland only getting on top, he alleged, when a bunch of players from “the Andorra league and Spanish fourth division” became “knackered” in the closing stages of the game.

It was a deliciously spicy exchange, but there was to be no sequel, the pair banished to the naughty step to allow them cool down, Darragh Maloney, Lisa Fallon and Kevin Doyle taking over for the Hungary game.

Or it could just be that RTÉ said to Peter and Richie, “lads, there’s no way we can put you through another end-of-season Ireland friendly, so take yourselves off to South William Street and relax”.

Kev and Lisa were much more forgiving about the performance against Andorra than Richie, Lisa noting that such teams would “suck the life out of you”, which was certainly how those of us who watched the game felt, while Kev reminded us that it was “a crappy astro pitch” and “a five-hour bus drive” to get to the venue, so it was little wonder that Ireland played with the all the life of a dodo.

Warm-up

How different would this challenge be? Well, having been drawn in a Euro 2021 group with France, Germany and Portugal, Hungary clearly decided they wanted a final warm-up game against a team they reckoned they could pulverise, especially one with only beaches on their minds, just to give them a little lift before, possibly, being annihilated by all three of those group opponents.

Team news. As we expected, Hungary started with Gulacsi, Kecskes, Orban, Bolla, Kleinheisler, Nagy, Schafer, Fiola, Varga and two Szalais, George Hamilton nigh on losing his teeth when he read out their names. Kenny Cunningham, at this particular moment in time, opted to remain silent until the Irish line-up popped up, and then proceeded to call the Gavin fella everything but Bazunu – Banuzu, Banizu, Bunizo, that kind of thing.

Is it an age issue, or do you spend half an evening on Wikipedia looking up the lads in our squad these days, a good chunk of them a bit on the unfamiliar side, and so young Davide Gualtieri could be their grandda?

No matter, game time. Ireland took the knee, Hungary didn’t, opting instead to point to the Fifa ‘Respect’ badge on their shirts, the jammed Szusza Ferenc stadium opting not to remotely respect the Irish players’ gesture, instead booing the bejaysus out of them. This is becoming a tad depressing.

The game? Not a whole lot to be said, really, it being much like the end-of-season-friendly-between-Hungary-and-Ireland that we might have expected. But 0-0, that’ll do grand.

“Our bellies were on the floor,” said Kev of the early stages of Stephen Kenny’s reign, so he was happy enough with the Andorra win and the Hungary draw, a decent end to a trying spell. Bellies not quite aloft, but getting closer to lift-off.

Holiday time, and no one deserves one more than Stephen Kenny. Considering most of us need Wikipedia to identify a chunk of his squad, he’s earned our patience.

Happy holidays.

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