Eamon Dunphy can stir the pot like no-one else
Eamon Dunphy says he doesn't rate Roy Keane as a manager but feels that Niall Quinn may some day be president
IT'S only 11am in his front room in Ranelagh and the broadcaster is stroking Harry, his pet cat, like the bald, evil mastermind in Dr No and telling me what's wrong with Official Ireland, the Labour Party, Niall Quinn and Roy Keane.
"The Aston Villa thing is a joke," Dunphy says in reference to Keane being linked to the assistant manager's job.
"You couldn't do that and do the work he needs to do for Martin O'Neill.
"Roy's CV as a manager is unimpressive. He was out of work for over two years before Martin O'Neill gave him the chance to come and work with the Irish team. He wasn't getting a job in England, even from clubs he played for.
"Roy has a chance [with Ireland] to rehabilitate and learn and maybe he will be a great manager."
Dunphy says he doesn't share Keane's darkness.
"I don't have that. I have fun. I'm not driven in the way that he is. Maybe when I was younger. But Roy is a driven man. He has what he calls himself, 'demons'. My demons are all exorcised thanks to Lillies and Joys!" he laughs.
Dunphy goes into the kitchen. He doesn't so much walk as mince in from the kitchen to the living room with a cup of Nescafe for me. It's like watching Marilyn Monroe walk to the train in Some Like It Hot. When he writes the next volume of his book, I'm going to insist he calls it Mein Camp.
Sitting down, Dunphy tells me a story of being with his late mother when he suddenly appeared on the RTE News ranting about something. She told him: "There's two Eamons – the one at the table with her and the one on the television being controversial."
Does your wife Jane have the same problem?
"I'd say so. I've been tabloid-ed a lot while I've been with Jane. She's had to put with that and she is brilliant to do it; as are my family," he explains.
I ask him was he joking when he said "you can't get good cocaine in this town".
"It was a joke based on fact!" Dunphy roars with laughter. "To the journalist, it was gold dust. I was like Roy Keane for a while. I was the gift that never stopped giving... no one ever caught me with stuff. I always fessed up."
Dunphy doesn't need cocaine. At least not this morning. He just needs to open that Grand Canyon of a mouth of his and off he goes. Some of what comes out seems almost crafted to cause a stir.
Do you still think Seamus Heaney was "a sanitised Paddy" whose poetry was "mediocre"?
"I don't think his poetry was as good as people thought it was. I think the deification of him is an Irish affectation and it makes me laugh; compared to other poets who I admire – like Larkin – I don't think Heaney was great," he says.
Even when he is talking absolute bollocks, Dunphy, whingeing narcissist or not, is still one of the most entertaining men in Ireland. Everyone he doesn't like is a muppet. It's The Muppet Show in Ranelagh.
The 68-years-old only occasionally slips into a Statler and Waldorf-esque old man moaning about the world mode but overall he is great company. I imagine him lying on the couch in the dark at night yelling at the TV.
"What makes me most angry about Irish politics is the calibre of people who go into it are embarrassing. When I think of Enda Kenny walking into a big room at Davos or at an EU Summit, or maybe Joan Burton," Dunphy says, "when I see those guys and you know that everybody in the room is going to be laughing at them. Or ruffling their hair. That image of Enda punching Sarkozy on the arm and Sarkozy going, 'Ah yeah, Paddy!' It's like that comedy sketch when they do The Pointy Heads!
"It's just disappointing. I wish that we were represented – especially internationally and in America – by people who are entrepreneurs, the Michael O'Learys and the Denis O'Briens of the world. The Dermot Desmonds. There are all kinds of people out there who know finance. Send O'Leary out to negotiate with the Troika."
Do you actually believe Enda doesn't understand the dynamics of the banks?
"I don't think he has a clue. I think it is a total mystery to him. I think they give him a brief and he says the minimum possible," he adds.
He says it doesn't matter who the leader of the Labour Party is and holds no great regard for Joan Burton. "I don't rate her. I think she's shrill. There's an interview with Vincent Browne, which is a classic, before the last election, and she lost the plot completely. And her department has been responsible for some of the most desperate cuts, really bad stuff.
"And the other candidate... White," Dunphy grimaces, "is the man in charge of medical cards. So who are you going to vote for? It won't make any difference. They are toast. Unless they walk out on some pretext but I think it is too late for that, too."
Was Ireland almost better off when the Troika was here?
"Back in the Eighties I remember talking to the late Aengus Fanning – who we both knew and loved," Dunphy says, speaking of the former editor of the Sunday Independent, "and I was Eurosceptic. I said to him: 'We are going to end up being run by the Germans, by Frankfurt.' And Aengus replied: 'Eamon, that'd be the best thing that could ever happen to us!'
"I don't want us to be ruled from Europe, but there is an argument that if it's Angela Merkel or Joan Burton," he laughs, "I think I'd go with Angela!"
If there was an election now, Dunphy says he would vote Sinn Fein.
And where would Ireland be in four years?
"Marching!" Dunphy laughs. "I think Gerry Adams is much more able and capable – and has a much greater political CV – than Enda Kenny," Dunphy says later when I ask would he like to see the Sinn Fein leader as Taoiseach one day.
It's nearly lunchtime. Before I go I ask him quickly about some of his most famous, and polemic, public pronouncements ...
Do you still think Kevin Kilbane's "head is better than his feet – and if only he had three heads, one on the end of each leg"?
"No! Kevin was a great player for Ireland and I like him. Let's pretend I didn't say that!" Dunphy laughs.
Is Mick McCarthy still "a boil on the arse of humanity"?
"I never said that!" he laughs.
And do you still think that Niall Quinn is "a Mother Teresa"?
"Yeah. He is all things to all people. He's a saint, isn't it? He always says what is popular. I think Niall might be president of Ireland one day. He might rise without trace to the presidency."
As Harry the cat would doubtless say – miaow.