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Ian O'Doherty: A slight overreaction, perhaps?

We have Foley; they have Ferdinand.

Yup, in the run-up to the events kicking off later this week, it was interesting to note that both Ireland and England became embroiled in controversy about player omissions.

To be fair to Kevin Foley, while it was obvious that he was spitting bullets at his last-minute exclusion, he managed to comport himself with an admirable degree of dignity.

Not so with Ferdinand (pictured), however.

While there is no doubt that Hodgson could have handled the situation better, Ferdinand's reaction has been that of a millionaire baby throwing his diamond-encrusted toys out of the pram.

His agent was first off the blocks, screaming the tedious mantra that Rio hadn't been shown sufficient "respect".

The player himself, while understandably pissed off, showed that he cares more about Rio Ferdinand than he does about England by further stoking the issue and using various "sources" to highlight his sense of disgruntlement.

But things really took a turn for the ridiculous in one report that came out on Tuesday.

According to The Guardian, a "source" (hmmm, I wonder who that could be?) angrily claimed that the decision to call up Martin Kelly rather than Ferdinand meant that: "Rio is very angry and feels that every black player in Britain, every black fan and everyone in the black community has been insulted by this."

Really?

Well, just ask John Barnes, who came out and said that the boss gets to pick who the boss wants and he knew himself when his international career was over and Rio just had to accept it.

Really, when you start playing the race card like that, you know you've lost the argument.

Oh just let it go . . .

Really, we are a very weird little country at times.

Take the Late Late last Friday, for example.

Now, myself and the missus sat down to watch with the usual feelings we have when the show is about to start -- a mixture of apathy, curiosity and a general sense of 'myehhh' -- but what unfolded on our screens was some of the funniest television to be aired by the national broadcaster since . . . well, since I can't remember, to be honest.

It had just the perfect stench of cordite and booze in the air and it was nice to see Tubridy (above) realise that this was a train he couldn't control. Indeed, as he sat back and relinquished control he ended up presenting his finest show yet.

But that hasn't stopped the kill-joys coming out of the woodwork and denouncing the programme because they felt that it promoted drinking.

One sobriety campaigner complained that: "This just proves that Irish people can't have a party without booze and it glamorises drinking for our young people."

Now, with all due respect to the programme, I somehow doubt that the nation's lads and lassies were sitting at home watching the Late Late -- they were probably out somewhere else off their cake on head shop drugs.

But one letter in this very paper condemned the show, saying: "The host should be invisible, the guest should be the star."

Really?

I think Johnny Carson and his successors Letterman, Leno, Ross and Norton might have something to say about that.

Aw bless, they have a heart

So, how many of you are heading over to Poland?

We keep seeing stories in the papers about the 30,000 tickets sold to Irish fans.

That is great but I can honestly say that with the exception of mates of mine who are journalists and will be covering the tournament in a work capacity, I only know one bloke who is going of his own volition.

And his bird is Polish and her Da owns a pub so that's hardly a huge sacrifice -- the lucky bugger.

But one of the main worries is, obviously, the threat of violence against visiting fans.

Ukraine is obviously the biggest concern but Poland has a long and undistinguished history of hooliganism, racism and anti-semitism.

But, it would appear, the Irish don't have a thing to worry about.

And the reason?

Well, apparently, the local Ultras have issued a statement saying that the Irish have nothing to fear and that any local who has a pop at the Paddies will have to answer to them.

That's all and well and good, and I'm sure will come as a relief to any travelling fan but I was particularly tickled by their statement that they were "visiting local schools to talk to the kids about treating the visitors".

Honestly, you know you have gone down a weird rabbit hole when the local hoolies are making school visits to talk about tolerance and hospitality.

I can't see the Chelsea headhunters or the ICF in the '70s doing that, can you?

The perfect route

Contrary to what some of the critics of this column have claimed in the past, I'm totally prepared to accept that some of the people who are against the blockade of Gaza can still be decent people.

And we saw a perfect example of that recently.

The ludicrous 'Viva Palestina' "aid convoy" set off from Bradford recently in a futile publicity-seeking exercise to bring goods to Gaza.

They chose a bizarre overland route which saw two of the vehicles being jacked by thugs in Romania and then found themselves travelling through Syria, of all places.

And, wouldn't you know, it would appear that Assad is not a tyrant who is verging on genocide, oh no.

In fact, according to one of the convoy members: "There have been traces of white phosphorous, and and we all know who that belongs to" -- a not-so-thinly veiled accusation that Israel is actually committing the atrocities.

I felt my blood boil at this casual and stupid anti-Israeli bigotry until I read the report further, which saw one of the 'Viva Palestina' people leave the mission -- which ended up being cancelled anyway -- because she was extremely uncomforatble and decided to storm off in protest.

Maybe there is hope, after all?

Bookworm

Anyone who has ever been to Mexico -- I've been twice and I love the place -- will know that the people are, by and large, friendly and hospitable.

But you always know that you have to keep your wits about you.

Indeed, the further inland you go, and the further removed you are from the usual tourist traps, the people are even nicer -- but also potentially more dangerous.

And as the country descends into the kind of wanton brutality that we haven't seen since the break-up of Iraq, it is heartbreaking to witness the utter savagery of the feuding gangs.

40,000 people have been killed in the cartel wars of the last few years and now people are accusing the Mexican government of just letting the gangs kill each other while they stand back and do nothing.

Anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the situation needs to get a copy of Bandit Roads, Richard Grant's award-winning account of his insane travels through the Sierra Madre at the height of the violence.

Frankly, while many war reporters file their copy with a sense of derring-do, Grant is honest enough to admit that he spent most of his time, to use a journalistic phrase, shitting himself.

The lack of respect or even interest in human life makes the whole place seem like a real-life version of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

And anyone who has read that book will know what an endorsement that is for Bandit Roads.

Irish Independent