TV View: Ireland’s got talent all right - it’s in Johnny’s right boot

Like Ireland in Paris, TV3 had a promising start, rocky middle and a spectacular end

"Bloody hell, that's us done." And six hours and 40 minutes after saying hello, Joe Molloy bid us adieu, himself and the entire TV3 organisation most probably heading out to the car park of their Ballymount premises to erect a statue of Johnny Sexton's right boot.

If it hadn’t been for said boot, “everyone would be getting up depressed tomorrow morning,” as Ronan O’Gara put it. Instead, “everything is beautiful and all is possible again.” And when the question is asked, ‘where were you when . . . ?’, the bulk of the nation will respond: ‘Sitting on the couch watching TV3.’

As debuts go, that one's hard to top, the channel's only slight concern likely to be that over the course of their four-year contract, they will never have another Six Nations moment to match Johnny's 83rd-minute jaw-droppingly wondrous intervention. To be negative about it then, it's all downhill from here.

It was reaching a point the past couple of weeks where you wouldn't have been surprised if Roy Cropper started reminding his bacon-butty-seeking customers in Corrie's caf that TV3 would be showing us the Six Nations this year, so all-pervasive was the channel's promotional plugs for the campaign ahead.


But 'Super Saturday' finally arrived, the menu featuring just the six and half hours of rugby coverage, followed by Ireland's Got Talent, which, by then, we hoped would already have been demonstrated in Paris.

Which it was, by Johnny's boot, resulting in Ireland's Got Talent being delayed, probably resulting in the advertised spoons-playing man throwing a strop when he should have just been grateful he wasn't pitted against Johnny's boot in the voting.

Now, it’s been a while since there was fresh research done on the most stressful life events for the average Irish person, but it’s likely that the current top five, in no particular order, is divorce, moving house, switching jobs, trying to get through to report a broadband fault and RTÉ losing their Six Nations rights to TV3.

It's not that there's any special gra for RTÉ, we give out about them almost as much as we discuss the weather, but change tends to bring us all out in a rash. And the prospect of the Six Nations on the telly without Brent Pope was a bit like Christmas being a Santa-free zone. Old habits die hard, too. You'd wonder how many people found themselves watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on RTE2 at 4.45 wondering all the time why the match was delayed.

But the time had come, the grand opening featuring a man raking a beach, with horses trotting past in the background, interspersed with clips of rugby. As you’d expect.

From there, TV3 had a similar day to the one Joe Schmidt’s men experienced in Paris: promising start, rocky middle, spectacular end.

The rocky bit was that 16 second spell when they were showing us ads while Wales and Scotland had already kicked off the opening game of the 2018 Six Nations, the fault apparently resting with the ref who blew his whistle too quickly, with no thought given to broadcasters trying to recoup the money they’d dished out in the first place for their Six Nations rights.

That, of course, left the nation decidedly grumpy, stirring memories of TV3’s rugby World Cup coverage in 2015 which featured considerably more ads than tries.

But, that hiccup aside, it was largely quality, refreshing fare, Molloy playing a blinder. There are hosts whose sole aim is to demonstrate that they know more than their panel of experts, then there are those who are secure enough to ask questions to which they know the answers. The mission being to give viewers a better insight. Bill O'Herlihy was the master, anyone familiar with him from Off The Ball knows Molloy has a similar ego-less touch.

We saw it in the post-match chat with Ronan O'Gara (dropping in from New Zealand, like you do), Matt Williams and Shane Jennings, who were all probed in to getting us in to the mind of Johnny Sexton. It was terrific stuff, O'Gara especially, him no stranger to rather useful last minute drop goals.

“Does Johnny Sexton want a penalty [in those circumstances] over a drop goal,” asked Molloy.

“A penalty is a controlled situation, you can snap in to a routine,” said O’Gara. “A drop goal, there are so many uncontrollables . . . a penalty is like a drive in golf, a drop goal is kind of a wonder shot out of a bunker . . . especially from 40 yards.”

Williams put it all down to the relentless drive for perfection. “I bet he kicked as a kid on Christmas day, because that’s what the obsessive people do,” he said. Jennings smiled. “He’s probably the most stubborn person I’ve ever come across in my life,” he said. The upshot? “You’ll have young kids in the back garden knocking drop goals over, going ‘I’m Johnny Sexton!’ It’s just brilliant.”

Over in Paris Shane Horgan was close enough to being lost for words, apart from: "It was properly ridiculous."

“By God did he deliver,” O’Gara concluded. “Up steps the king and knocks it over.”

“Magic,” said Molloy.

That it was.