TV View: Waiting 86 minutes for Ireland to turn up

We were expecting an absent Austria, but Ireland were very nearly not there at all

Republic of Ireland’s Wes Hoolahan and Austria’s Martin Hinteregger battle for the ball during Sunday’s World Cup Group D qualifier at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

You can’t but be a little fearful in the build-up to these rather consequential encounters when so much is made of our opponents’ woes, in this case the number of players unavailable to Austrian gaffer Marcel Koller – so many of them we were left wondering if they’d be able to field a team at all.

Retirements, run-ins with glass tables and an assortment of strained body parts – the list was lengthy. “They’re even getting married to get out of this,” said Didi Hamman with quite a negative take on matrimony. It was true, though: back-up defender Andreas Ulmer, of course, opted to say ‘I do’ to his beloved last week rather than Koller when he was asked if he’d like to pop over to Dublin for the game, although you’d like to think his proposal wasn’t prompted by his call-up.

Darragh Maloney reminded us that our Kevin Long was skipping his brother’s wedding so that he could play – news, of course, that had Roy Keane comforting the player by telling him not to worry, that his brother might get married again some day.

Wedlock issue

That was the wedlock issue dealt with by the RTÉ team; it was time to move on to the Irish starting XI, the panel agreeing to a man that Martin O’Neill was severely divorced from good sense, it being far too Conservative when it needed a touch of the Corbyns about it.


And the absence of one person in particular had the nation muttering as one, “Ah Christ, Eamon will be off.”

He was too: nothing shivers his timbers more than a Wes-less Ireland, as we know, the inclusion of Glenn Whelan in the line-up adding to his exasperation. “His presence is inexplicable,” sighed Dunphy, “he does nothing, really.” If James McCarthy had been fit and selected, he would have eaten his microphone.

Just about the only thing that gave Eamon the will to carry on was the selection of the man from Bournemouth. “you can’t have enough Harry Arters in your team,” he said, kind of making him the Gary Breen of our time.

Despite their collective disappointment with the selection, the panel still reckoned Ireland would do enough against a team bereft of half its regulars. And the national anthem being played by a pipe band would surely have lifted their spirits, and possibly ruled out the need to have their ear wax syringed.


Roy had asked the players to go to war with Austria and James McClean obliged by nigh-on dissecting the Junuzovic lad just before Robbie Brady saw to Hinteregger. “He felled him like he was taking down a tree,” as George Hamilton put it. But those were the highlights of the first half which featured Irish football of a kind that Pat Spillane might have described as “puke” if he’d crossed codes and joined our panel.

Anything else? Oh yes, Austria scored. And their goalkeeper was bored out of his brains with nothing to do. “He’s almost got a cigar out at the moment,” said Jim Beglin. “Not that I condone smoking,” he quickly added, lest ASH write a strongly worded letter to the papers.

Half-time. The panel. The mood. Guess?

Dunphy: “This team wasn’t broken, so there was no need to fix it.”

Darragh: “What fixes it?”

(The Nation: “Ah gawd Darragh, do you have to ask? BRING HOOLAHAN ON!”)

Dunphy: “Bring Hoolahan on.”

Second half. Why do we get so mad when the team is comprised of West Ham, Derby, Brighton, Burnley (x4), Stoke (x2), West Brom and Bournemouth players, six of them spending a chunk of their time sitting on their club benches last season? Like, look at that, a useless hoof from Brady towards Walters, not a hope . . . wait . . . ya boy ya!

Nearly assured

A late, late Austrian winner was very nearly assured when George hollered that “there’s time enough for another one”, but instead it was Shane Duffy who scored, only to have it cruelly ruled out simply because he strong-armed Lainer into the back of the net along with the ball. John Delaney could be asking for a 33rd spot in Russia yet.

“I know in this day and age the slightest wee thing you say about a referee you get fined,” McClean said to Tony O’Donoghue at full-time. Keeping his whist, then. Hold it. “But . . . youse watched the game . . . they had a 12th man today.”

Which is 12 more than we thought Austria might have with that withdrawal list. As it proved, it was Ireland who failed to turn up. Well, until the 86th minute.