TV view: A nervewracking day on the couch

A Super Sunday of sport finds heroes at every turn both sides of the remote control

Irish and French fans  ahead of  the Pool D clash at  the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Loic Venance/AFP

Irish and French fans ahead of the Pool D clash at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Loic Venance/AFP


The following took place between the hours of lunchtime and bedtime on Sunday, October 11th 2015. It is being documented here based on two assumptions. One, that you had much the same experience. Two, that you can’t remember a single second of it because the tension cleansed your synapses somewhere around 20 minutes into the rugby. This is an account of what you missed while watching The Greatest Day Of Sport, Ever. 

12.16 Enda Kenny goes on The Week In Politics to say the election won’t be held until spring. This doesn’t bode well. He must feel in his water that Ireland aren’t going to win both games of Super Sunday. Well, we certainly won’t with that attitude.

2.55 Not a whole pile happening. Shane Lowry is making a bit of a charge at the European Masters. A couple off the lead, he goes for the green on the risk-reward par four 12th. Clearly in a hurry to get done before 4.45. Smart boy, Shane.

3.13 Matt Cooper kicks the second half of Italy v Romania over to Whocaresville. Or 3e, as it is sometimes known. “We’ll be here analysing Ireland v France right up to kick-off,” he says. That’s 92 minutes of build-up. Christ.

3.38 Lowry bogeys. Looks like he saw that the leaderboard was getting crowded and was in danger of going to a play-off.

3.42 Fan interviews. Yawn. Murray Kinsella wistfully remembering when he got to analyse rugby that time. A banner saying, ‘This flag has gotten further than England.’ Okay, that’s pretty funny.

4.04 Match analysis starts. Shane Jennings says key to the breakdown is One Man, One Bullet. More proof that rugby never saw a war metaphor that it didn’t like the look of.

4.13 “Just in case this is getting technical,” says Keith Wood, “intensity is the key.” 

4.26 Lowry bangs in two birdies in three holes to go into second at Woburn. What is he thinking?

4.40 Teams walking out in Cardiff. TV3 panel play Thesaurus Golf with their predictions. Physical battle. Attrition. Carnage. Very, very physical.

4.43 Lowry has a 12-footer for birdie on the last. Two minute to kick-off. Misses. No chance of a play-off. Knows what side his bread is buttered.

4.46 Game kicks off. Peter O’Mahony and Paul O’Connell come out like feral dogs who’ve just found a hole in the fence.

5.00 Sexton penalty, 3-0.

5.04 Spedding replies, 3-3.

5.07 Johnny again, 6-3.

5.11 Spedding again, 6-6. So far, so ho-hum. AND THEN, IT ALL STARTED TO GET MENTAL.

5.14 Johnny Sexton is down, nailed to the turf by Picamoles. Johnny Sexton is off, replaced by Ian Madigan. On a scale of One to Absolute Disaster, this is somewhere around Hmmm, Very Definitely Not Great.

5.18 Madigan doesn’t care. Nails a penalty to make it 9-6. Conor McNamara says he was practising all through the warm-up. What else would he be doing? 5.26 Madigan has this. Bangs a kick to the corner, strolls up like he owns the place. Smooth.

5.31 Liam Toland: “O’Connell’s down!” [Momentary black-out]

5.32 Hang on, what? Not Paulie. Please not Paulie.  5.33 Half-time. Everyone trooping off. Everyone except O’Connell, who is surrounded by medics. “We’ll try to find out what’s happened to Paul O’Connell and tell you after this break,” says Matt Cooper. 

5.34 Ads.

5.35 More Ads.

5.36 Interminable %$£&ing ads.

5.37 Ad for The Irish Times. Love ya and all, Gerry, but this is torture.

5.39 After five minutes and 44 seconds of ads, they finally go back to studio. Paulie’s on a stretcher! Getting oxygen! The only bits of action they show are Sexton going down, O’Connell going down and Keith Earls butchering the game’s best chance of a try. Disaster level has reached Ah Here, That’s Just Ridiculous.

5.41 They can’t be going for more ads, can they?

5.42 They can.

5.43 They can and they will and they have.

5.49 The half-time break was 14:04 minutes long. The TV3 panel talked about the game for precisely 1:42 minutes. Cha-Ching!

5.50 The game is back on. This is not fun.  5.59 But soft, what light from yonder inside centre? Robbie Henshaw leaves Bastareaud for dead. Interesting.

6.00 VERY interesting! Rob Kearney skips through Freddie Michalak and goes over for a try. Madigan misses but Ireland lead 14-6.

6.05 Peter O’Mahony down. Of course he is. Disaster level at You’re Having A F**king Laugh Now. CoachCam spots Joe Schmidt passing a message to O’Mahony through his medical staff: “Tell him he played the game of his life.” Awwww. 

6.18 Chris Henry has a bang to his head. Nigel Owens asks does he want to go off to do a test. Henry looks at him like he’s just asked him to play the rest of the game in a fur coat and boxing gloves. “No, thanks,” says Henry. “What’s my name,” asks Owens. “Nigel,” says Henry. “Now sod off,” thinks Henry.

6.28 TRY IRELAND! France, who rather unreasonably haven’t had anyone stretchered off, are bottling this. Devin Toner, Iain Henderson and Seán O’Brien beast them out of the way, Conor Murray touches down at the base of the post. Somehow, this is 21-9.

6.32 Madigan penalty. Ireland 24 France 9. Mad, Mads.

 6.38 Full-time. Madigan in tears. Keith Wood delirious. “The most extraordinary level of bravery I have ever seen,” he says. But before they can talk about it, they go to more ads.

7.00 Soccer time. It’s a blessed relief. That was more than enough intensity, thanks all the same. Time for a bit of calm.

7.12 “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT DARRAGH!” Eamo is off on one. Can’t fathom Wes Hoolahan being left out. Doesn’t accept Darragh Maloney’s explanation of a knock on his love child. So much for calm.

7.37 Total gloom in studio. Eamo, Liamo and Gileso don’t like the team that’s been picked. Don’t hold out much hope. Thursday was like a year ago.

7.42 Line-ups. Five changes for Ireland. “Wes has a bit of a heel problem,” says Ronnie Whelan from the stadium. In studio, Darragh whistles and looks at the ceiling. Eamo seethes.

7.50 Soccer. Good old reliable, nothing-happening soccer. Aaand breathe.

7.58 Uh-oh. Poland score. Corner swings out to the edge of the box, Krychowiak has time to flick it up and volley. Fiddlesticks.

7.59 Penalty! Shane Long takes a kick in the head outside the box that the referee decides was inside it. Jig-time Jonny Walters steps up and pings it into the bottom corner. 1-1!

8.02 Poland goal! Offside! Disallowed! WILL EVERYTHING PLEASE STOP HAPPENING ALL AT ONCE! 8.05 Seriously, this is all far too much. Like, when are any of us supposed to eat?

8.08 The rugby feels like it happened about two years ago. 8.22 Lots of scrappy footballers playing scrappy football. Good. Who has the nerves for this sort of carry-on?

8.27 Spoke too soon. Lewandowski header. Poland go 2-1 up. Damn and blast.

8.31 Half-time. We only need a goal.

8.42 Panel aren’t impressed with either side. We’re crap, they’re a teensy bit less crap. “There have been more tackles in this game than there were in the rugby,” says Liam Brady, who clearly didn’t watch the rugby.

9.01 Poland are jittery as hell here. Plenty of fouls, plenty of dives. Shane Long is kicked two feet in the air and has to go off. Crowd tense, players tenser. Couch-dwellers tensest.

 9.14 Wes Hoolahan on! 9.25 Chance! Aiden McGeady does a lollipop out on the right and stands up a cross for Richard Keogh to steam in and plant a header into the bottom corn… Ah, poxbottle. Keeper saved it.

9.32 Full-time. That was the chance, no more came. John O’Shea gets sent off in injury-time. Jon Walters booked, misses first leg of play-off. Shane Long has ligament damage. Disaster level, Ireland Rugby Dressing-Room.

9.40 “We had players there who copped out,” says Eamo. “Didn’t deserve to finish second in the group,” says Liam. “Poor game,” says John. 

9.45 Eamo’s outrage is in full flow. “Martin O’Neill bought Emile Heskey twice.” Enough. Time for food. Most incredible thing about the day? Turns out Enda Kenny was right. 

Second Captains

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