Sunday 17 December 2017

Radio review: They thought it was all over ... it isn't now

Eilis O'Hanlon.
Eilis O'Hanlon.

Eilis O'Hanlon

It was, to borrow a footballing cliche, a week of two halves. The first half was characterised by Ger Gilroy's less than confident response on Tuesday's Off The Ball to the question: "Are you positive about Ireland's chances tomorrow?"

"I'll ponder that over an ad break and we'll talk further," said the Newstalk presenter. Though returning after the break, talk turned instead to almond croissants and French cider, before acknowledging again that elephant in the room: "Is anyone out there feeling positive?" Answer came there none.

There was less self-doubt about Irish supporters, who were, one caller to Today FM's Dermot And Dave declared on Wednesday, "the best fans in the world".

The two Ds, also broadcasting live from France, couldn't agree more, even talking of their "massively proud feeling, walking around in a green shirt on your back, knowing that you're part of that."

This "competitive niceness" prompted Today With Pat Kenny to ask whether supporters of the national team were too happy to accept defeat, and the same attitude was further parodied during Gift Grub on The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show on Today FM as a frustrated Roy Keane whined: "We don't want everyone to love us. We want them to fear us."

"Anyone who cares about football doesn't give a damn about the fans," was pundit Ian O'Doherty's own refreshingly grumpy take on things to Pat Kenny. "It's about what happens on the pitch."

As for former international Mark Lawrenson, he was asked on Matt Cooper's Last Word a few hours before the crucial game how Ireland could beat Italy, and bluntly answered: "I don't think we can."

That gloom took a long while to lift. The half time match advice to Irish players on Off The Ball was: "If you get a nudge, if you get a touch, hit the deck." With eight minutes to go to the final whistle, the boys in studio were still discussing whether it was worth throwing Robbie Keane into the mix and hoping for the best.

Then came the goal.

"Robbie Brady, you hero," shouted a delighted match commentator Nathan Murphy. "We're heading to the last 16 … France, bring it on on Sunday."

Late Debate, which started on RTE Radio One a few minutes after the game ended, was more restrained, with the forgiveable exception of Ray Houghton, scorer of that famous goal against England in 1988, who was interviewed over a "slightly dodgy" telephone line from Lille.

"Who are we to meet next?" asked show host Cormac O hEadhra

"I don't know," said Ray. "I don't care."

Cormac tried again: "How far can we go?" No answer. "We've lost Ray… I hope that's not an omen for the future."

On Today With Sean O'Rourke that morning, incidentally, Barry Linehan - "our man in a camper van" - had been canvassing Irish fans and found 75pc predicting a 1-0 score line in their favour. It's called the wisdom of crowds.

Sunday Independent

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