TV View: Ireland’s pot finally ends up full of enthusiasm

No rushing in St Petersburg as battle lines are drawn for advance on World Cup 2018

Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova starts a kiss-a-thon with Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke on stage during the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Saturday. Photograph: Getty Images.

Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova starts a kiss-a-thon with Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke on stage during the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Saturday. Photograph: Getty Images.

 

“And Djibouti play Swaziland.” (Silence.) No more than ourselves, George Hamilton tuned in to the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw a bit early, like when you’re not sure when Ireland are singing in the Eurovision and it turns out they’re song 56 so you sit through the other 55 and end up losing the will to live.

That’s not, of course, to say that only the European draw matters, but it’s the one we’re in, us still being in Europe, and we could have been outside enjoying the rain for the first almost-two hours.

Still, at least early tuner-inners got to hear Sepp and Vlad say nice things about each other, which was lovely, Putin declaring that “this is a tournament that will be wonderful not only for Russia but for all our neighbouring countries”, which must have left the Ukraine delegation feeling emotional.

Not being sleazy

Jerome Valcke

Natalia regained her composure admirably, though, and was able to have a chat with a string of footballing greats, including (the Brazilian) Ronaldo. “What does an accomplished man like yourself dream about nowadays?”

“To see a world free of violence, hunger and poverty,” he replied, a yearning that only received a ripple of applause from the audience – it wasn’t, we’ll trust, that they didn’t share the sentiment, it was possibly just that they wanted to be home by Christmas and wished Natalia would get a move on.

At last, the European draw, and us in a pot with the Faroe Islands and a few others didn’t augur fabulously well. George certainly sounded like his pot was half empty in the early stages, only mustering enough enthusiasm to tell us how far Moldova was from Moscow by train. Back in the studio, Brian Kerr was giving us the shoe size of Moldova’s eighth choice left back, not the first time in the week he offered George an assist . . .

(The Champions League qualifier between Dundalk and BATE Borisov at Oriel Park, into injury-time, Dundalk needing a goal, time ebbing away, but then the fourth official raised his board . . .

George: “Seven minutes! Seven minutes of additional time!”

Dundalk hearts: (Leapt.)

Kerr: “No, no – that has to be a sub, George.”

It was.)

Anyway, George was nigh on Ole-Oleing once the draw was complete, his pot overflowing with optimism, Ireland having been drawn against Gareth Bale, Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia. David Forde was similarly upbeat when Peter Collins spoke to him on the phone, the goalie sounding like he was under water, but Kerr cautioned caution, telling Peter that there was a lot more to Wales than Bales.

Back in St Petersburg Martin O’Neill was preaching much the same message, although there was a hint of a smile, one that vanished when Tony O’Donoghue asked him if he’d still be around for the campaign. “You’ve already grilled me about this here only about four or five days ago, so the answer will still be the same. Alright? Thank you.”

Over and out, like.

It was over and out, too, for a bunch of the competitors in La Course, the women’s cycling spin around Paris yesterday, the Croagh Patrick-like weather sending several crashing to the cobbles. Anna van der Breggen stayed upright long enough to win it.

The jingle

Carlton Kirby

Possibly still covered in pee and spit, after a fun few weeks in France, Froome took to the podium as champion, George Osborne looking a right Charlie by standing alongside him. A GUBU Tour de France, for which cycling’s powers-that-be can only blame themselves.

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