TV View: Liam Brady puts a pin in Richie Sadlier’s positivity balloon

Grouchy studio exchanges hark back to the good old days of Eamon Dunphy and co

Portugal’s Pepe fouls Callum Robinson of Ireland and is subsequently sent off. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

“It’s like we’re back in the good old days,” said a beaming, if drenched, Ray Houghton when he chatted with Tony O’Donoghue pitchside on the Six One News, Ronaldo the only nation to have beaten Ireland in their last eight outings, and the stadium jammed with actual people for the first time in two years. Happy days, indeed.

When you think of the cranky heads on us no more than 18-ish months ago, not just because of the run of lousy results, but also because the absence of supporters meant we could hear our team singing the national anthem. They’re lovely lads, but they’re no Andrea Bocellis.

Darragh Maloney maintained this upbeat mood when the night’s coverage started over on RTÉ2, and Richie Sadlier was all for it. “The story of the campaign is the emergence of some key young players,” he said, saluting Stephen Kenny for giving youth its fling and declaring himself sufficiently encouraged by the team’s recent form to want the FAI to give the gaffer a longer fling in the job.

The fact that Liam Brady was dressed all in black should probably have given us a sense of foreboding, that perhaps he’d still have his cranky head on him despite the reasons to be cheerful outlined by Darragh and Richie.


“I’d put the brakes on that a bit, Darragh,” he said, putting a pin in the positivity balloon. He pointed out that Ireland’s triumphs in their last two games came against Azerbaijan and Qatar, somewhat rudely suggesting that neither is any great shakes, and if it hadn’t been for Gavin Bazunu’s performance, Serbia would have mullered us in the game before.

“So, I think the jury is still very much out on Stephen Kenny,” he said, noting that “this is possibly the worst qualifying campaign we’ve had in the last 20 odd years” - “we got beaten by Luxembourg here!” - reckoning the FAI should wait ‘til next summer before making a decision on the manager’s future.

This led to a most excellent grouchy exchange between himself and Richie, the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since The Dunph left the building.

Liam: “So you want Kenny to get a new contract now? You’ve changed your tune, Richie, big time!”

Richie: “From when?”

Liam” “The last game here against Serbia!”

Richie: “I did a very rare thing - I kept an open mind!”

Liam: “Hmph.”

Anyway, the team news confirmed that there’d be two CR7s on the pitch, yer man and our Callum Robinson, as that highly terrific banner in the crowd hailed him, while Portugal kept the bulk of their first choice rearguard on the bench, sort of a who’s who of world football, because they were on yellow cards and they’ve a rather monster game against Serbia coming up.

Pepe started, though, his manager obviously confident that he wouldn’t do anything daft like, say, chuck an arm in to our CR7’s face when on a yellow card, thereby earning a red and ruling himself out of the Serbia game.

The game? Well, Portugal’s bench ….. João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, José Fonte, Renato Sanches, Diogo Jota, cripes …… possessed more quality and experience than our starting XI combined, but are we just getting transported to the heavens by that positivity balloon (sorry Liamo) when we say that this Irish team play some rather lovely football and are becoming an exceedingly good watch?

The highlight of the game was possibly when the visiting CR7’s quite thunderous free kick was blocked by Shane Duffy’s head, almost removing it from his shoulders, at which point the visiting CR7 claimed a penalty, appearing to believe that Shane Duffy has an arm positioned in his forehead. That lad needs anatomy classes.

At least you knew the visiting CR7 was on the pitch. It was only when Bruno Fernandes was taken off that you realised he was ever on.

A scoreless draw, one defeat in nine games, the positivity balloon having a little more air pumped in to it.

Liamo was tingling. Kidding.

Richie: “From an Irish perspective, there were plenty of positives there.”

Darragh: “Liam, are you encouraged by what you’ve seen?”

Liam: “Well….. it was a damp squib, that match.”

Richie: “Hmph.”

Liam: “It was alright. If you’re looking for confirmation that Stephen Kenny’s the way to go, I wouldn’t make a judgement on that.”

Richie had a biro in his hand. But he resisted doing a Dunph and chucking it across the studio. His vibes were highly positive, whatever about those of the man in black.