Times they are a changin’ and it’s all so sugary sweet

If only George Hook and Liam Brady would get with the programme and join our bliss

“Change in all things is sweet,” said, apparently, Aristotle, although it could just have easily been Robin van Persie, and so much change have we had in two footballing codes of late, we should be sugary sweet at this stage.

"Rarely has a coach picked up the reigns with such national expectations," said Tom McGurk on Saturday, but while he was actually speaking about the Joe Schmidt fella, you know yourself, he might well have been referring to O'Neillo and Keano.

The nation as one, ecstatic.

Apart from Liam Brady and George Hook, maybe, who were, it might be fair to say, not quite all set to chuck confetti in the air and hail the respective codes' new partners as marriages made in heaven.

Set up for failure
Not that Hook has anything against Schmidt, but while the rest of the RTÉ panel was all a-tingle with hope and that class of thing ahead of the meeting with Samoa, Hook cheerfully reminded us that "there have been 15 Irish rugby coaches since Ronnie Dawson, and less than a third of them walked away from the national job in a better place than when they started this job – essentially you are set up for failure, rather than success."


An upbeat start to the Schmidt era, then.

"You're not allowed to burst any bubbles just yet," warned McGurk, Shane Horgan and Brent Pope almost choking in a pot, kettle, black kind of way when George noted that "every Irish coach's appointment is greeted with universal joy", but due to the "cynicism that is innate in Irish sport . . . then we start asking the questions".

But, true enough, best to start off fearing the worst, but hoping for the best, although a smattering of buoyancy on day one wouldn’t go amiss.

And in fairness, Hook was buoyant when Schmidt declared himself to be less than content even after a 40-9 triumph, declaring it to be the “best post-match analysis I’ve ever heard by a winning coach” because it was downbeat and Keano-esque-ish.

Because if Ireland beat Latvia 40-9 on Friday, you’d have a notion Keano would focus on the nine, while O’Neillo would attempt to persuade him that there 40 reasons to be cheerful.

Cheerful. Bill O'Herlihy, John Giles and the Dunphy man, certainly, but Liam Brady? You couldn't put recall David Feherty's observation about Colin Montgomerie, "a face like a bulldog licking its own [wee] off a nettle".

“Never in the history of football has a number two made so much news, I don’t understand why he’s brought him back . . . if you look at his track record, his relationship with players, disastrous most of the time,” he said of the whole business, while his colleagues tried, in vain, to cheer him up.

Bill: "Ray Houghton was immensely impressed by him."

Liam: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”

Then Liam complained about the media “obsession” with Roy, in the course of the panel’s 24-minute chat about the new Irish management team, 23 minutes of which were devoted to the Roy man.

Begging to differ
"I'm so delighted that Martin O'Neill's got the job, if I have to put up with Roy Keane so be it," he concluded, Eamon begging to differ with analysis, while adding a word of warning about the new Number One: "Let me remind you: O'Neill signed Emile Heskey a couple of times."

On to Saturday and Setanta very kindly aired O’Neill’s press conference, and you know, you could listen to this fella more than forever, the only disappointment that it had to end.

"That was a joke," he had to point out on an occasion or two, but sure, in time we'll get used to a gaffer who speaks our language. Missing Manuela Spinelli already, though, it would have been a hoot if the FAI had retained her services to assist those who struggle with the Derry brogue.

Changed times, though, and it’s all sweet.