TV View: Yes, we can play football . . . but maybe not in Russia

Like the team, RTÉ’s panel gets a revamp for crucial World Cup qualifier

Ireland’s James McClean slides in to tackle Serbia’s  Luka Milivojevic during the World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inph

Ireland’s James McClean slides in to tackle Serbia’s Luka Milivojevic during the World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inph

 

As the state broadcaster, part of RTÉ’s brief, you’d assume, is to be able to detect the pulse of the nation and respond accordingly, so in fairness to them they did their best for those left feeling the 95 minutes and 31 seconds they had spent watching Saturday’s game in Georgia was a chunk of their lives they would never retrieve. By the final whistle, which was the joint highlight of the evening along with the Duffy man’s goal, the viewers were lucky to have any pulse at all.

So, in an effort to resuscitate the disenchanted, RTÉ presented us with a segment ahead of the Serbia game that was entitled “We Can Play Football”, the researchers having scoured the archives for clips of our lads going in a forwards direction and occasionally passing the ball to each other. That was an uplifting opening, then, although Darragh Maloney almost banjaxed it by telling us at 7.08pm he was going to show us clips of where it all went wrong in Georgia. The Serbia game was to start at 7.45pm, so he was cutting it fine.

Lifted spirits

So then, Glenn Whelan and Harry Arter out, Wes Hoolahan and David Meyler in.

Eamon, who’d have chucked a bucketful of biros across the studio on Saturday if he’d had a bucketful of biros, had half his pulse back, Wezinio’s inclusion restoring a little bit of his faith in humanity. “His presence gives us options,” he said, “one of them being we can play football.”

Harry’s decommissioning, though, wasn’t to his liking, but Glenn’s was. “We really don’t need Whelan shuffling around the place and doing nothing,” he’d said post-Georgia, “it’s good that Whelan’s gone,” he said pre-Serbia. When a recommissioned This Is Your Life gather guests to pay tribute to Glenn, Eamon’s invite will remain in the post.

Then it was time for the most eagerly awaited match-up since, dunno, McGregor v Mayweather? TOD v MON.

“You made two changes to the team,” said Tony. “Why would I want to share it with you,” Martin might have been tempted to reply, but he was on his best behaviour and the exchange was disappointingly civilised. A bit like Conor, his bark is more effective than his bite.

Back in the studio, Damien was showing us how the long ball can work, which left Liam slumped despondently over his desk and Eamon’s pursed lips reading “Bring Back Didi”. And then Damien reminded us how many times our lads responded to brutal performances with historically awesome results, so you couldn’t but feel the Olés rising again. But Eamon was having none of it. “I’m not optimistic . . . they could do serious damage to us and finish our chances of going to Russia.”

As if.

And there was Michael D, still beaming from events across the town on Sunday, it was just a wonder he didn’t issue a presidential edict ordering The Sawdoctors to perform the national anthem, “stone walls and the grasses green”.

Off we went and soon enough we discovered that We Can Play Football. “With football like this, Tbilisi is becoming a distant memory,” Jim Beglin purred, his pulse racing. “Night and Day,” said Liamo come the break, “first class performance”.

“The Wes effect,” declared Eamo, “we can win it, we have every reason to be optimistic.” By now he was browsing through his handy Russian phrases. (“??????? ?????????????” Would you like to dance with me?). But he insisted the evening would end up pear-shaped if Wes was taken off after an hour.

His fears were unfounded, Wes wasn’t removed from the action until the 61st minute. By then that Kolarov person had our collective pulses racing again, but not in a good way, our hearts in smithereens.

Game changer

“Russia was always a long, long away,” said George on the final doleful whistle, “it’s on a very, very far distant horizon now.” He told us not to be entirely pessimistic, but then the Welsh result came in and the pulse of the nation went a bit on the flat-ish side.

Back in the studio the lads focused on the what-might-have-beens, if this, that, or the other had happened we’d be home and hosed.

Time for TOD v MON again. “We’re not finished,” insisted MON. We believed him . . . a bit like we believed Conor when he said there’s life in his boxing career yet.

Another defeat on points. All done.

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