TV View: Wales can see clearly now as the sky falls in on Ireland
Phil Babb deserves a pay rise after suffering those two games while Keith Andrews seethes
Ireland’s Cyrus Christie in action against Harry Wilson of Wales during the Uefa Nations League game at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
The post mortem on Saturday’s game didn’t exactly help the positivity levels ahead of the latest instalment of our Nations League adventure, the general consensus being that it wasn’t Cyrus Christie who deserved the Man of the Match award, it was the Virgin Media person tasked with extracting enough highlights from the encounter to fill that evening’s show.
Then Denmark’s Thomas Delaney was rude enough to describe our football as “primitive”, having previously suggested that trying to fancy-dan your way through our back nine was akin to attempting to open a can of beans with your hands. And then Mick McCarthy added insult to injury by suggesting on Virgin that our style of play is not sexy, when surely sexiness is in the eye of the beholder?
It was all very gloomy then, not an uplifting word to be heard, but at least we’re not alone in having a disappointing Nations League time of it, think of poor old Spain not only losing at home to England on Monday night but then being asked by crooning visiting fans, “Are you Scotland in disguise?” There’s always someone worse off.
So, how did this one start out?
Well, after 20 minutes our Welsh visitors were singing “you’re just a shit Northern Ireland”.
Not the best, then.
And the team news had been relatively encouraging too, Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Ethan Ampadu all kind enough to sit this one out, Ryan Giggs fielding a side that makes the Welsh Under-21s look like veterans.
Two changes for Ireland: Callum Robinson and Aiden O’Brien in for Callum O’Dowda and Shane Long, Scott Minto, our Sky host, wondering what formation would be used – would it be, say, 3-5-2, would Martin O’Neill revert to a more traditional 4-4-2, or, like on Saturday, would it be 7-2-1?
Phil Babb had no clue, having long since given up on guessing how many players would be slotted in to positions with which they are not familiar, so he just opted to wait for kick-off to see where everyone was standing. Wise.
Phil, who might now be negotiating a pay rise with Sky having turned up for both Saturday and Tuesday’s games, was joined by James Collins who was a bit fretful about Wales’ hopes in light of the absence of their mega stars, but then Scott had some good news for him – Martin had expressed some concern about the pitch at the Aviva being “very big”. James grinned, reckoning the Irish gaffer might be getting his excuses in early, so that gave him hope for the Welsh babies.
Phil found Martin’s comment “strange”. To his knowledge, the size of the pitch hadn’t changed since the stadium was built, so was Martin just noticing that it was very big? “And it’s got white lines, it’s got grass on it, it’s got goals at either end, the game ain’t gonna change, is it,” he asked.
Any way, Scott, who conceded Saturday’s game “wasn’t a classic”, an observation that was not incorrect, told us that “both teams have one eye on promotion, but also one eye on relegation”, leaving them cross-eyed, so there was tons to play for. Was Phil tingling? “We’ve only had eight shots on goal in three hours of football.” Not really.
A sparse-ish crowd, even Michael D hadn’t turned up. Anthems. And off we went. And Christie, a defender who plays in midfield who has been our most threatening forward of late, almost scored. And Callum Robinson looked a bit neat. Apart from that.
“Was that much better?” Scott asked Phil at the break, pausing, then adding “in the first 10 or 15 minutes?” “Absolutely,” said Phil, who was just relieved to see a shot on goal. At times like this the only way is up.
Second half. Harry Arter needlessly fouled a Welsh lad just outside the box and you worried for his recently repaired relationship with Roy. The upshot? As Keith Andrews put it: “Wot. A. Free. Kick. From. Harry. Wilson.”
If we thought it was gloomy doomy after Saturday, come full-time Phil and Keith had the expressions of lads sitting under a sky that had just fallen in. “It’s a sad state of affairs,” said Keith, “I don’t know what we’re doing.” Phil? “It all looks, dunno, willy nilly.”
Scott, by the way, had told us that Aaron Ramsey had tweeted that his wife Colleen had given birth to twins.
There wasn’t, you’d have to guess, a single viewer who wasn’t thinking, ‘she didn’t endure even half the feckin’ pain we just did watching those 90 minutes’.