Wednesday 21 March 2018

Euro 2012 TV Watch: No one was singing The Fields of Athenry in my living room!


TO BORROW one of Giovanni Trapattoni's gnomic utterances, it is "very, very too difficult" to find anything positive to say about last night's debacle.

Those who were actually in Gdansk gave a heroic impersonation of people enjoying themselves but, for those of us trapped in front of our television screens, the experience was bleak.

No one was singing The Fields of Athenry in my living room. We sat mute, watching the strangely mesmerising spectacle of a group of professional footballers being humiliated by a group of much better professional footballers.

Anyone who has watched a horror film will be familiar with the technique whereby, when things on screen get too scary, you say to yourself, "it's only a movie". The sporting equivalent is to say, "it's only a game".

Neither technique works, in my experience. I tried telling myself that no one had actually died in the PGE Arena last night but it was impossible to shut the gloom out.

The misery seemed to seep out of the TV, like the fog in that John Carpenter movie. Even the rain played along, pelting windowpanes all over Ireland as hard as it hammered the roof of the Trap's dugout in Gdansk.

This meant that even if you could tear yourself away from the action on screen - and, like I say, it exerted an appalling fascination - a glance outside gave you the feeling that you couldn't really escape.

There are always positives, of course. When the Trap's men depart, for example, our eyeballs will no longer be stung by the queasy green light that that RTE bathes its studio in for Irish games.

And Roy Keane and Patrick Viera sat side-by-side on ITV's panel without coming to blows, or even appearing to dislike one another. I also liked that Keano had the courage to challenge the view that our singing fans somehow make defeat acceptable.

It's comforting, too, that Mick McCarthy's commentary is safely confined to the BBC. Big Mick may be a decent manager but let's face it, his voice is excruciating. He makes George Hamilton's co-commentators - Ray Houghton and Ronnie Whelan - sound suave by comparison.

Best of all, it seems that the ill-advised advert for Sharp's Fan Labs, which celebrates supporters from various Euro 2012 countries but not Ireland - and which ends with a prolonged shot of an England fan - has been quietly dropped from RTE's coverage.

Sharp aren't the only people having what one might call a Starbucks moment. In the world of social media it is more apparent than ever that people from outside these islands are unaware that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK.

Referring to Ireland's tactics, for example, a posting on Twitter - which made an otherwise insightful point about our footballing culture - finished with a geographical howler.

The tweet read, "'Grinding out', 'Plugging away', 'Clawing back'. When will the British finally understand that football is not a steel factory?"

The reminder that not all foreigners are conversant with the nuances of our politics was sobering but it was events on the pitch that were most depressing.

Not even the armchair generals had an answer to our malaise. RTE's analytical A-team - Giles, Brady and Dunphy - struggled to articulate a way out of the current mess, and Brady in particular seemed to have sunk into a deep depression.

It was hard not to join him. Football sometimes seems to be more than just a game.

Many have suggested that Italia 90 marked the start of the Celtic Tiger. Similarly, Poland 2012 seems to augur recession and economic collapse.

Last night, the 4-0 deficit looked as insurmountable as our national debt. Like the bank bailout, it might hang round our neck for a generation.

BEST MOMENT: Shay Given's save. In real time, it looked like something out of Boy's Own. In slow motion repeats, it looked even better.

WORST MOMENT: The expression on John O'Shea's face after Torres made it 3-0. Footballers who emote are commonplace these days but O'Shea's face showed, for a brief moment, real anguish.

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