Sunday 21 July 2019

Ireland's finest moral victory has really put the twit into Twitter

L iveline vocalised our pain last week and that is always a sign we are entering the arena of the unwell where the only balm is the ecstasy of sanctimony.

Ireland suffered an injustice on Wednesday night, but it was hard to think it was going to end any other way.

As a boy, I remember staging a one-man protest against the Portuguese ref Raul Nazare, tearing his picture from a newspaper with the intention of setting fire to it after his performance in Brussels, in what was my nine-year-old self's attempt at burning an effigy. But I couldn't find any matches so instead I tore up the picture and threw it in the gutter. I felt a lot better after that.

Today I would be emailing furiously, listening to the Corrigan Brothers who were swift to offer a musical accompaniment to our outrage (it's 'Henry', lads, not 'Henri' as you had in your press release. And the World Cup is taking place in South Africa, not South America. Apart from that, keep on keeping on) and feeding my own anger online, discovering a fresh urgency that my desires be met with every Facebook group I joined.

Right was on our side, that was the tough part, but right is so often on the side of the defeated. In fact, right is more often on the side of the vanquished than the victors, that may be the only thing sport teaches us.

Twitter and other social networks, but mainly Twitter, have encouraged a belief that if you are angry, and there are lots of other people who are angry too, your anger should be acknowledged and rectified. In fact, it is better to be left alone with your anger, that way only the smallest of minorities will transfer their isolated stands into some drastic direct action. Now our voices are heard and we are mobilised too quickly. There is never a moment when something should not be done.

Nobody wanted to see Thierry Henry walking out in South Africa, or even South America, behind the Fair Play flag and holding, as Pat Kenny so accurately put it, "the hand of some hapless child." We were doing it for the children, even the hapless ones.

Ireland, of course, had made the familiar journey from hopeful to hopeless last Wednesday and those of us who sat in Stade de France feeling certain that nothing good could come of this, that nothing good had ever come from nights like this, were unable to prevent ourselves believing. And did we feel any better for our hope? Faith, once again, was a cop-out. If the Irish football person can be sucked in, then there was no chance for those who tuned in on Wednesday night hoping for some entertainment. At the best of times, people who know nothing about football opining on it is an obscenity. Having them intrude on our private grief is too much.

They think it has become a serious matter once Dermot Ahern starts talking about it when, in fact, this is the moment it becomes profoundly silly.

We may have to excuse Brian Cowen from the ranks of the bullshitters. As he read that France's qualification could boost the French economy by a billion euros, Brian was entitled to feel that this time it's personal, that salvation was denied by one slap of Henry's hand.

So Cowen was feeling our pain because he was hurting too. He doesn't have the feelgood factor himself so he would have welcomed any opportunity to associate with it. He is far more familiar with the feel-bad factor but unfortunately so are we. He can't lead us there.

Instead some sought consolation by texting any radio station they could, wondering why Trapattoni couldn't make a clear-eyed statement about the issue rather than rambling. They would know nothing of Trap's turmoil on these occasions, the injustices he has had to witness over a lifetime in football and why his digressions were merely an extension of the serenity prayer that he's been quoting recently. A way of trying to keep himself sane, to search for the positives.

There were no positives, of course, unless one considered the collateral damage suffered by corporate sport.

One of the most uplifting moments of the week was Damien Duff being critical of adidas. The clothing company sponsor France and they also sponsor Damien Duff. Adidas have looked for -- and received -- copy approval when they grant interviews. This means they have altered the journalist's interview and changed anything they don't approve of. In his grief, Duff had taken on their bullshit. Copy approve this, baby!

All filters had gone and through the gaps slipped a thousand eejits. The week was a triumph of eejitry, with each march on the French embassy another national embarrassment and something which, in time, we may have to apologise for too.

Some thought the performance of the Irish team was a positive, but the stupendous display only made people feel worse. Ireland had their most moral victory yet as it raised questions of morality in sport and yet they had failed, maybe even, according to one man, prepared to fail.

Roy Keane wages many wars, of course, but the one that sustains him most of all is the crusade against bullshit, even if he is able to accommodate his massive contradictions as he fights the good fight. We must get over the injustice in Paris while he reminds us of his suffering in Saipan.

Of course, they were horrified by Roy on Liveline, with one caller criticising his "stream of angry words", although without the stream of angry words, Liveline would cease to exist.

On Friday, they were saving them for Roy, giving their own angry words more weight than his.

This was as big as Saipan, they said. With Roy involved and the country split, that wasn't strictly accurate. The war wasn't over. Saipan was being fought again.

Sunday Independent

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