TV View: Left longing for an open wet pub to drown our sorrows

Changes on the pitch and up in the Sky but sun fails to shine on start of Kenny’s reign

We should, of course, be getting used to things by now, but when Jon Walters was saying pre-match that Aaron Connolly had the ability to "get the crowd out of their seats", you'd have been left a little tearful. Just the 51,700 empty ones in the stadium, not even a wet pub open for the Lansdowne Roarers to see the game.

But at least they could go to a dry pub, and after the quality of the Irish performance they might have felt quite relieved to have been sitting in one, having a few pints along with their nine Euro bags of Scampi Fries. At least that way their pain would have been numbed by the knowledge they hadn’t paid in to see the game.

There had been three changes from the team that played Bulgaria, an entire new midfield picked for this one, while Sky altered their line-up too, Phil Babb keeping his place, but switching from the right to the left of the studio. And this time he was joined by Walters, just to add some physicality up top, while Gráinne McElwain, a summer signing from TG4, was also brought in to fill the holding role in the interview room.

Incidentally, having already struggled with the names of Matt Dough-er-tee, Adam Eeeeee-dah and Conor Hoooer-a-han, our presenter, whose name Sky is still neglecting to put on screen, did reasonably well with 'Gráinne', not, as we feared he might do, calling her "Grainy", more like 'Grunya', which was a decent effort. Still, you long for the day a Muircheartaigh is picked for Ireland, the craic would be mighty.


"We reject the idea that it's in our DNA that we can't pass the ball," Stephen Kenny told Gráinne ahead of the game, during which, alas, his players set about proving that it might well be.

But Phil and Jon had been reasonably hopeful, Jon covering all pronunciation bases when he talked of Adam Eye-Ee-Da’s promise.

Another Sky change in the commentary box, John O'Shea replacing Mick McCarthy, thus completing the Waterford accent's annexation of the day's sporting telly for those who had been listening to Seán Kelly's dulcet tones during Eurosport's coverage of the Tour de France. Throw in Jayson Molumby's inclusion in the team and it felt like a Déise coup.

Off we went and in those early stages we learnt that (a) Robbie Brady still hasn't found a barber, (b) Aaron Connolly sadly has, and (c) possession football is only a good thing if you actually do something with the ball when you possess it.

We also learnt, thanks to Rob Hawthorne, that Finland’s Daniel O’Shaughnessy has an Irish father. Granted, this didn’t come as a massive surprise, but, judging by his throw-ins, it would have been even less surprising to find ‘Da: Rory Delap’ on his birth cert.

Half-time, 0-0. "I see you were feverishly making notes during the first half," Sky Man said to Phil. "I was just doodling," he replied, largely because there wasn't much worth noting. And doodling, as it happened, was really all Ireland had been doing too.

Jon, meanwhile, analysed Harry Arter’s attempt to score a goal. “A shot from 30 yards, the highlight for Ireland in that first half, says it all really,” he sighed, suggesting that Idah may as well have been in the pub eating Scampi Fries for all the service he was receiving.

"Things can only get better," said Sky Man, which proved to be wholly untrue, Fredrik Jensen making little impact for Finland when he came on as a sub until he scored the game's only goal 18 seconds after he took to the field.

By now, O’Shea was sounding a little like Kelly when the mist descends on those French mountain tops and he still has to commentate even though he can’t spot a single cyclist. Doleful. Defeated. Wishing he was in a dry pub.

But look, patience is a virtue. If we can last seven months without wet pubs, we can give Stephen Kenny time to get things up and running. Not many of our managers, after all, have started their reigns during a pandemic.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times