Wednesday 21 March 2018

It was enough to win without searching for some grievance

Dion Fanning

T here are those who suggest that Ireland's victory against England was somehow diminished by the sport's minority status within the country. There will be much talk this weekend of how the game needs to build on its success. There must be growth, they will say. The game must try and capture the public's imagination.

For some of us, there will always be bafflement at Paddy's failure to enjoy cricket. Then we remember that cricket once came easily to Paddy. This was before the juggernaut that is the GAA destroyed the enjoyment of a game that fitted instinctively with his natural rhythms.

Rafael Benitez observed that cricket was a strange game. You tell your wife you are going to play a game and you don't come back for five days. Paddy, with his ability to disappear for five days merely in the act of putting the cat out, should have embraced this culture long ago.

Even the shorter versions of the game offer many points of relaxation and, in a world that has placed a premium on relaxation, that is something everyone should grasp.

The length of the World Cup is, in itself, an act of defiance from those who demand to relax. The chorus before the tournament began that the World Cup went on too long was too shrill and too unified to be correct. What's the rush?

For some cricketers engaged in the game for every day of the year it is undoubtedly a drain but cricket has created this calendar anyway. For those of us watching on television they can take as long as they like

The tournament will build slowly before reaching the knockout stages, making it more difficult for a team like Ireland to reach the knockout stages.

The last time, they reached them by beating Pakistan and tying with Zimbabwe before entering a Super Eight stage that took all momentum out of the tournament just when things were becoming exciting. Things are harder this time but Ireland are no less capable,

The victory on Wednesday was so magnificent in part because of the forces mounted against them. Ireland didn't doubt themselves, which is not the same as saying they weren't massive underdogs before, during and after the game.

Ireland are underdogs again today as they face India and Sachin Tendulkar, who scored a beautiful century against England last week, before being overshadowed by Kevin O'Brien. This abstract achievement of O'Brien trumping the great Tendulkar might in itself rank as one of the greatest in the history of Irish sport. O'Brien's 100 in 50 balls certainly does and the victory itself was one of those magical moments that are very rare for any country.

There were some who bristled as the Sky commentators peppered their gracious remarks with talk of Guinness and how it would be party time for the Irish if victory was achieved.

It is not John Bull's fault if he has come to believe that Ireland is some sort of drinker's paradise. Every tourism ad with twinkling Irish men and lingering shots of golf courses and stout suggest that this is a country where relaxing is the only thing on the agenda.

Of course, there has recently been a subtle alteration in the perception and now we are also known as a land of reckless and cowboy bankers. Yet this fits in nicely with the concept that Ireland is a land where a man can do what he wants, whether it is drink or benefit from a deregulated banking system.

The reality is different, at least on the drinking front. The reality is a sort of alcoholic dystopia which may not be so pleasant but drink is still at its core.

These complaints are just another form of denial. How dare John Bull categorise us as drinkers? This was undoubtedly a complaint heard across the land and one most vocally asserted by those who used the circumstances of Ireland's victory to tie one on last Wednesday night. Or indeed start with the first ball on Wednesday morning.

England and its commentators were most gracious. Some took exception to Geoffrey Boycott's remarks that the leprechauns were going to do it. Boycott is an acerbic commentator but he is a man of his time so maybe his language has not evolved. He uses leprechaun the way some would say 'Indian' instead of Native American.

Again Paddy is culpable here. In a couple of weeks, Ireland will again engage in a day of National Uncle Tommery underpinned, as always, by collective and destructive drunkenness. There will be fools dressed as leprechauns and there will be men in six-foot novelty leprechaun hats who have given up on life, if not yet given up on being an eejit.

If an outsider gets the wrong impression, which may not even be the wrong impression, whose fault is that? It was enough to beat England without searching for some grievance in the process.

But, when it comes to grievance hunting, everyone must bow down to the Old Firm. The life of man is short. We are all familiar with those helpful explanations that tell us if the earth's life was a year, man's part in it would the final minute of New Year's Eve but few live with this appreciation of the brevity of our existence like Old Firm fans.

They have concertinaed all resentments into this last second of time. Something that happened eight years ago is remembered as if it were yesterday.

Into this environment El Hadji Diouf has stepped. Where there is discord, he can bring even more discord. Diouf spat at Celtic fans eight years ago and last week, they reminded him of it as he brought his own personality type to the place it was least needed.

Celtic have their own combustibles too. Neil Lennon could well be a success as Celtic manager but right now all that shows is that to be a Celtic manager requires a different set of skills. He comes from the most grievance-stricken of tribes and he looks ready for a long and fruitful career responding to the one-liners of Ally McCoist. These have never been funny and Lennon may finally have snapped after watching too many repeats of A Question of Sport on UK Living.

There is need for a futile gesture from the other side at this point. Celtic must sign Stephen Ireland.

Sunday Indo Sport

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport