TV view: Real Bravehearts in the stands at Croker
Succession of sporting wins for Ireland is threatening our famed national humility
Leicester’s Jamie Vardy of whom Paul Merson said: “If I was on ’oliday and I was reading a Ladybird book and that was the story, you’d put the book down Jeff, you’d put the book down.” Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire.
Humility is, of course, a highly commendable trait and, as a nation, with just a sprinkling of exceptions, like Louis Walsh, we’re generally that way inclined. But when you beat Bosnia and Herzegovina, Scotland and Australia in five sports – football, Shinty, Hurling, Aussie Rules and Gaelic football – in the space of six days, it’s hard to be humble. All we do is win, like.
Having seen off B&H, it was Scotland’s turn next to try and subdue us and you fancied their chances once Ollie Moran shared with Michael Lyster his memories of playing in these Shurling clashes. He recalled a visit to Scotland in 1997 when “there were a few drinks, right or wrong, before the match”, and how the hosts made them pay for it.
“We got fairly roughed up,” he said.
“They bet the beer out of you,” asked Michael.
“They did,” said Ollie. “You won’t see a lot of wristy hurling from the Scots tonight, but when they hit you, God love you.”
That sounded ominous. And Seán Óg Ó hAilpín didn’t calm the nerves when he told us “these fellas play like the Braveheart film”, although on the night that was in it, the most courageous people in the stadium, really, were those sitting in the stands losing all feeling in their fingers and toes to frostbite
And while some might have blamed hypothermia for Irish goalkeeper Eoin Reilly struggling to deal with Steven McDonald’s Exocet missile of a free, you try fielding a drive like one yesterday’s Race to Dubai winner would smack. “This fella’s going to take it off the ground like Rory McIlroy,” Brendan Cummins had forecast, and he wasn’t wrong.
So, really, Shinty is a combination of hurling and golf.
“The defenders use something like a six iron, as you go up the pitch they start to turn in to three irons,” Brendan explained. And also, it seemed as if the Scots’ clubs were so long they could be in the shadow of the Cusack Stand and still win a 50-50 under the Hogan.
Any way, with a swing of that exquisiteness you wondered why McDonald wasn’t doing his sporting thing and picking up a couple of million at Jumeirah Golf Estates over the weekend, instead of peppering our Eoin like he was the middle of a fairway.
But still, despite being out-weaponed, Ireland won.
Australia’s turn next.
Michael was struggling to hear himself think because they were playing AC/DC over the stadium speakers, which might have been a Croke Park first, while Sean Óg was reminiscing fondly about his involvement in past uncompromising rules games when the Aussies shook him all night long. “I still have the scars from 2005,” he said, pointing to cheeks autographed by Aussie elbows, fists, studs and the like.
“We have to be honest, sometimes the crowd came for a bit of a shemozzle,” said Ciarán Whelan, but he reckoned that ever since the governing bodies had ruled that attempted murder and similar offences could result in a spell in the sin bin, these games would be forever shemozzle-less. Bad news, then, for the 38,386 hardy souls taking their seats outside.
The match? It could have been worse. But we won. Again.
By then, however, it was a little difficult to see straight having availed of Sky’s split screen service earlier to keep an eye on Real Madrid v Barcelona and Manchester City v Liverpool all at the same time. “Suaaaaaaaaarez,” the commentator would shout, while you were focussing on Philippe Coutinho tying his boot laces, and that’s more or less how it went for the nine goals, your eyes never in the right place at the right time. Thanks, though, Sky.
Jamie Vardy, of course, is always in the right place at the right time, the Leicester man scoring in his 10th successive Premier League game at the weekend. Considering it’s a wet-ish week since he was playing for Fleetwood Town, Paul Merson, on Sky’s Soccer Saturday, reckoned it was all a bit of a fairy-tale. “If I was on ’oliday and I was reading a Ladybird book and that was the story, you’d put the book down Jeff, you’d put the book down.”
Forever more, Jeff will picture Merse lying by a pool in Orlando reading Tiptoes The Mischievous Kitten.