It’s a lub-in for RTÉ’s World Cup panel

Some new signings for the tournament but Billo is there for his last stand

Well, that was a highly stellar Montrose midfield on the couch: Ray Houghton on the right, Ossie Ardiles and John Giles working in tandem in the centre, and, out left, the ever flexible Ronnie Whelan. (And squeezed between them all, Eamon Dunphy).

The occasion was the announcing, in a studio that had been transformed in to what appeared to be a downtown Rio nightclub, which had "huh?' written on Ronnie's face, of details of RTÉ's World Cup coverage, which, considering the tournament lasts for a month, amounts to a meagre enough 180 hours. Still, we'll get to see all 64 games live, even the clashing ones thanks to sundry platforms, and there'll be Aprés Match to boot.

Happy days.

New signings, too. Neil Lennon for one, as well as former United States goalkeeper Brad Friedel and Real Madrid assistant coach Paul Clement, who also had a spell with Don Givens in charge of the Republic of Ireland under-21 team. So, he should know his Xavis from his Iniestas.


Starring role

Ossie’s back, after his starring role in RTÉ’s 2010 World Cup coverage, the highlight his declaration that, during his illustrious playing career, the football was his “lubber”. “Your wha?” Giles silently wondered. (Lover). And when the two midfield maestros chatted privately yesterday, it was, evidently, a lub-in. Much respect.

Also on punditry duty will be Liam Brady, Didi Hamann, Richie Sadlier and Kenny Cunningham, the latter the sole member of yesterday's panel to forecast a useful World Cup for England.

“They have a vibrant edge they haven’t had previously,” he said, “they have game changers – Sturridge, Sterling, Barkley, Lallana. I think if they get through their group, they’ll be a very dangerous team.”

Dunphy nearly fell off the couch. “We have this tape recorded! We’ll play it back to Kenny,” he chuckled, Ronnie echoing his thoughts. “I think they’ll be lucky to come out of their group.” Kenny stuck to his guns, he was, he said, excited watching this England team play. Ossie showed him no lub either. “I must be watching another team. If England go through their group, it will be quite an achievement.”

If England win the World Cup (behave – it’s a funny old game), Kenny should insist on Dunphy, Ronnie and Ossie having three lions tattooed on their buttocks.

Bill smiled through it all, sensing there'll be a laugh or two with these lads during his last RTÉ shift before retirement.

“I’ve been asked how I want to sign off, do I want to make a big song and dance about it, and I said ‘no way!’. All I want to say is thank you to the three lads [Giles, Brady and Dunphy] and to the audience. In many respects, my talent is a very limited one, I’ve piggy-backed on the ability of the three fellas for years and years. Whatever I am, they’ve made me.”

After 49 years on television, will that be that?

Well, he would definitely consider other work, like one-on-one interviews, “but I suspect if you have a strong, tribal Cork accent like me, your opportunities would be limited,” he laughed. The day after the World Cup final, he will head for Spain for two weeks, then return to his PR business. After that? He’ll see.

Better presenter

Happy with his successor? Very. “Darragh Maloney is the most comprehensively talented broadcaster in the sports department, I think the choice is terrific. He’s a much better presenter than I am.”

How you will feel watching him?

“I’d say I’ll be thinking, ‘why the hell did I retire?’ And, ‘well, I wouldn’t have asked that question’.”

Will you ring in to complain? “No!”

Back to the panel. So, who’ll win the World Cup?

Giles? “Spain.”

Richard? “Argentina.”

Dunphy? “Argentina. Or Spain.”

Make yer mind up.

Dunphy: “Okay, I’m going to go with Spain.” Right.

Dunphy: “But I’ll be backing Argentina as a saver.”

Sheesh. Dunphy: “And I’m sure Brazil won’t win it.”

Ossie? Very specific. “Argentina will beat Brazil 3-1 in the final.”

Ray? “Argentina.”

Kenny? “Spain.”

Ronnie? “Argentina.”

Bill? “Speaking for the plain people of Ireland, the non-professionals, I will say Brazil.”

Dunphy almost choked. Not unreasonably, he noted “no one will ever win the World Cup with a centre forward called Fred”.

Let the lubbly games begin.