TV View: Ireland certainly got a mauling - but not from the pundits

Imagine if rugby had a Roy Keane-ish pundit - that would have been savage

Playing sombre music over slo-mo clips of Rory Best’s tears and Joe Schmidt’s ashen face was not the best way of cheering us up after Ireland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday. Photograph: Andy Newport/PA Wire

Playing sombre music over slo-mo clips of Rory Best’s tears and Joe Schmidt’s ashen face was not the best way of cheering us up after Ireland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday. Photograph: Andy Newport/PA Wire

 

So, how was your weekend? Anything on the telly?

All you could hope, really, was that Sunday would be a mood-lifter, but then both RTÉ and Eir felt the need to show us montages of Saturday’s most gut-wrenching moments, all played over dispiritingly sombre music and ending with harrowing slo-mo clips of distraught Irish players whose life’s work had just been rendered meaningless, Rory Best’s distressing tears and Joe Schmidt’s haunting ashen face.

Thanks lads. Very much.

So, not even the distraction of Wales v France (“We always felt that France would find a way of screwing it up, and they did,” as Eddie O’Sullivan put it) nor South Africa v Japan – ITV having both Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell on duty because they assumed, no more than ourselves, that this would be our quarter-final slot – providing any relief.

Eddie’s knives couldn’t have been sharper, and even Stephen Ferris came close enough to inserting a boot

At times of national crisis like this, the gist of the heated debate is, of course, how savage we should be towards our underperforming sporting persons.

Should we eat them alive, just skewer them gently, or go down the Michael Flatley route? It’s a long story, but he reckoned the media coverage of Saturday’s annihilation was “disgraceful”, that the team deserved “a bit of respect and credit”, and that “hearing Athenry during the Haka put the hair standing on my neck”. The same Michael, and the neck on him, would very probably have sent a backing dancer to the guillotine if s/he muddled her/his one-two-three.

Too kind

On the other hand, there’s a notion that our telly pundits, many of whom were poignantly positive in advance of Saturday’s ding-dong, were too kind to our boys after the mauling, but, on RTÉ at least, there wasn’t a hint of the Flatleys. Eddie’s knives couldn’t have been sharper, and even Stephen Ferris came close enough to inserting a boot (“they failed yet again at a World Cup, they didn’t even fire a shot”), confessing that he had spent Saturday night in his hotel room “going through social media”.

No wonder the fella looked so depressed.

Still, though, you’d wonder how it might have been if rugby had a Roy Keane-ish pundit.

Keane’s tongue was no less sharp when he was called up for duty by Sky for the Man-Chess-Nighted game against Liverpool

On ITV duty on Monday, Mark Pougatch asked him what he thought was Ross Barkley’s best position after the Chelsea man was named in England’s team to take on Bulgaria.

“Probably on the bench,” said Roy. Blunt, that.

And, come Sunday, his tongue was no less sharp when he was called up for duty by Sky for the Man-Chess-Nighted game against Liverpool. “He’s smiling – as usual,” he said when he spotted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arriving at Old Trafford. And he said it in an accusatory way, rather than it being a good thing.

Flanked by José Mourinho and Graeme Souness, sort of the Mané-Firmino-Salah of football punditry, Roy was restrained enough by his standards, although he was pushed close enough to the edge when he saw some of the United players warmly greeting some of the Liverpool lot in the tunnel, grunting his disapproval.

‘Disgusted’

“Roy, what is it that’s causing you offence?” asked David Jones, while Sounie and Mou chuckily snorted in the background. “I’m disgusted with players,” he replied. “You’re going to war . . . hugging, and kissing? Chat to them after the game. No, don’t chat to them after the game.”

United had the last laugh, beating Liverpool 1-1, VAR their outstanding player

Was he, at least, relieved to see David de Gea was fit to play?

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

So, Roy feared the worst for his former employers, sensing their team selection would result in quite a negative approach to the game. Was it a back three or five? “It’ll almost be like a back seven,” said Jamie Carragher, who tried really hard to sound respectful about a United midfield composed of McTominay, Fred and Pereira, but could barely stifle the giggling.

But United had the last laugh, beating Liverpool 1-1, VAR their outstanding player.

Jürgen Klopp snarked about United’s defensive approach. José had zilch sympathy. “He likes meat and he got fish,” he said. Graeme, meanwhile, paid the warmest tribute to United that they’ve received so far this season: “They turned up today.”

What about the future, though?

“Just go and get Kane from Spurs, easy,” said Roy. His pundit-mates chortled. “What are ye all staring at?” he asked.

All we needed was a harrowing slo-mo clip of Harry watching the coverage and imagining being serviced by McTominay, Fred and Pereira. That might have left the hairs standing on Michael Flatley’s neck, but hardly Harry’s.

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