TV View: Roman Bezjak joins pantheon of Irish sporting heroes

Slovenian slots in with Sonia O’Sullivan, Paul McGrath et al after brace against Scotland


It was shortly after Scotland scored the game’s opener in Ljubljana that the camera zoomed in on the back of their goalkeeper Craig Gordon to show a wasp crawling all over his number, and while you should never judge others by your own standards, you could only guess that a cry went up in the living rooms of Ireland along the lines of: ‘STING HIM!’

In normal times, of course, you’d never behave so shamefully, but these times aren’t normal, they’re desperate, so whatever measures were required to make a win in Cardiff enough for a World Cup qualifying play-off place, you’d take them. Even a goalie distracted by a temporary tingly prickle.

And when Leigh Griffiths scored in the 32nd minute what you wouldn’t have given for, say, a flying GPS to have put him off as he teed up his shot, resulting in him slicing it deliciously wide.

“Hold on to your World Cup dreeeeeams,” Ian Crocker bellowed when Griffiths hit the back of the net, Crocker forgetting that a not insignificant slice of his viewership on Sky Sports was of the Irish variety, so Griffiths’ goal meant they were fast losing their grip on their World Cup dreeeeeams.

A Scotland win, the number crunchers informed us, would have left us up the swanny, unless Ukraine and Croatia drew in Kiev, and while that might not have been a complete impossibility, when you’re depending on Ukraine and Croatia drawing in Kiev then your footballing life is becoming far too stressfully complicated.

But then after a 20 minute second half spell, the pantheon of Ireland’s Most Treasured Sporting Icons was added to, the list now comprising of the likes of Christy Ring, Katie Taylor, Roy Keane, Sonia O’Sullivan, Paul McGrath, Padraig Harrington, Paul O’Connell and Roman Bezjak.

Just as despair was enveloping us, Roman only went and scored twice. “That is DEVASTATING,” Ian howled after his second, and while maybe a small part of us felt for our Celtic cousins, most of us replied – before tangoing around the living room – “devastating my arse!”.

And then Scotland levelled in the 88th minute and a Slovenian lad was sent off and all you could do was look at the heavens and say, “would ya stop?”

Four and a half hours later the ref blew his final whistle.

“It’s the hope that kills you,” said Ian, which might be precisely how we feel if we don’t win in Cardiff and all Roman’s efforts are put to waste. If we prevail, then he’ll be the Gary Mackay of our time (ask your Granny).

Sunday evening, then, made up for Saturday when Konstantinos Mitroglou and Alexandros Tziolis entered our sporting hall of infamy by scoring the goals that gave Greece a win over Cyprus, which we gathered was an exceedingly bad thing. The anger you felt towards Cyprus exceeded even the levels of opprobrium you feel for Eurovision nations who give us the same number of points the Cypriots took off the Greeks: nul.

Although, still not as angry as the look Peter O’Mahony threw Reggie Corrigan during their TG4 chat following Munster’s defeat by Leinster on Saturday. If you had a 20th century telly, it would have needed a new tube.

You can tell Peter that Munster were brutal, you can tell him that they got all their tactic thingies wrong, but question their efforts and you’ll get a look that will pierce your soul.

Reggie: “What did you think of the intensity from your teammates out there? Did they give enough, do you think?” Peter: [Highly puzzled expression] “What do you mean? You’re questioning my team-mates?” Reggie: “ ... I’m just genuinely asking the question, if you felt that, you know, maybe they left something in the dressing room ... ?” Peter: “No. 100 per cent not.” And with that Peter departed, leaving Reggie’s mic waving in the icy cold thin air.

On Friday The Late Late Show chat with Colm Cooper might have proved just as chilly once the issue of his much-debated testimonial came up, but as if oft the case with Late Late Show chats with sporting people, the gist was ‘your critics are lousers’, followed by a tumultuous round of applause from the audience who only stop clapping when they see themselves on the monitors and start waving at the people back home.

An easy enough spin for the Gooch, then, although he’s been pilloried so often of late by some who evidently don’t take a look in the mirror all that often, he was probably due some relief. And regardless of the testimonial business, he still belongs in the list of Ireland’s Most Treasured Sporting Icons, alongside Roman Bezjak et al.

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