TV View: Filthy football makes thrilling return for us Normal People

It hardly lasted 60 seconds but it’s the best sporting action we’ve had in yonks

 

What exercised most of the callers to Liveline last Thursday was, of course, the filthy fornication that has featured so prominently in Normal People, the telly adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel. But sports fans wouldn’t even have noticed the hanky-panky, their pulses instead sent racing by the sight in episode one of a Gaelic football match. Do you remember them?

It didn’t last long, not much more than a minute maybe, but that was the first sports action any of us has seen on telly in almost two months where we didn’t know the result. Although with the character of Connell being kind of half Jack O’Shea, half Anthony Tohill, we probably should have guessed that he’d get the late score that won his school the cup and him the admiring glances of Marianne.

RTÉ missed a trick by not having Pat Spillane and Colm O’Rourke on after to analyse the 60ish seconds, maybe even having them both buck naked just to have the Liveline switchboard light up again.

In what was an act of savage cruelty, someone played The Sunday Game theme music on the radio recently, the first note alone enough to have you finishing off an entire box of Kleenex.

The Match of the Day music is having a similar effect, but instead of it heralding 90ish minutes of football all we’re getting is that chat between Gary Lineker, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer.

It’s mighty chat, as it happens, and it’s helping pass the time as we go through this football cold-turkey ordeal, but you can’t but wonder if the lads will soon run out of ideas for topics to debate. On Saturday night they were picking their top 10 best Premier League players not to have played for one of the big six. Next week it could be ‘The Top 10 Players With Three Vowels In Their Surnames’. But that’ll be fine, it’ll pass more time.

Wrightie was in good form as ever, although Gary noted that he was wearing sunglasses indoors. Wrightie explained that this was down to hayfever, although he didn’t rule out the cause being “watching a lot of princessy stuff with my daughter”.

But, as he explained earlier in the series, he feels he has an advantage over everyone else having taken part in ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ where he was bored out of his skull with nothing to do, “I just sat around all day”. We can all, of course, now relate to that, and when the next I’m A Celebrity hits our screens we will feel nothing but empathy for the contestants.

“Al, did you creosote your fence,” Wrightie asked Shearer in a manner that led us to assume he had creosoted his and just wanted to boast about it to Shearer. And so it proved.

Any way, the chat turned to Middlesbrough old boy Juninho and Gary wondered if he had been the first Brazilian to play for a northeastern club. “No, there was Mirandinha at Newcastle,” Shearer reminded him, before treating us to a rendition of that outstanding old Geordie chant:

“We’ve got Mirandinha, he’s not from Argentina, he’s from Brazil, he’s f***ing brill.”

Lesser lyrics have won the Eurovision.

TG4, meanwhile, took us back to 1990 on Friday night and showed us that World Cup game when we beat England 1-1 in Cagliari and while the result was etched in the minds of any viewer aged 35 or over, it is remarkable how you can be emotionally dragged back to the night that was in it – eg that time on Friday that you heard yourself howling “DECK HIM!” from the couch or calling the ref a word that rhymes with anchor for not giving our lads a peno.

Next Friday they’re showing us the 1990 game between ourselves and the Dutch in Palermo and you just know we’ll go ape when – spoiler alert for under-35s – Hans van Breukelen spills the ball and our Niall jabs it home with his 12-foot long leg like it’s the first time we’ll ever have seen it.

Mean time, all we can hope for is more pure filth in Normal People. Football, that is, not fornication.

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