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Rod Stewart's tartan army puts the panel in their place


SOMETHING MISSING: Darragh Maloney, Richie Sadlier Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy during the Scotland match

SOMETHING MISSING: Darragh Maloney, Richie Sadlier Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy during the Scotland match

SOMETHING MISSING: Darragh Maloney, Richie Sadlier Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy during the Scotland match

Flann O'Brien pointed out that a lot of life's problems are caused by the most basic misunderstandings - his wife, for example, thought that he was "a husband", when in fact he was a philosopher.

Likewise, RTE probably thinks John Giles is a football pundit, when in fact he is the Father of the Nation. And they can talk about their rotation policy and other such bureaucratic matters, but really there is only one rule here, which states that if Ireland are playing an important match, you can't have the Father of the Nation sitting at home watching the telly like my father or your father.

You can't have him reading the headline 'Giles Axed', words which seem to belong to some universe of imbeciles, until you recall that Brendan O'Connor was recently reading such headlines after presenting a show that was critically praised and commercially successful, which prompted the obvious reaction from RTE that it would be better all round to have someone else presenting it.

Giles may have been "axed" for this game and not all games - our old friend the rotation policy - but by applying that policy at all, RTE executives have been displaying that famous determination of theirs to make the least out of what they've got.

David Dimbleby presented the BBC's Election Night because he always does, because "it's in the Constitution", and I believe if you look in the right place you will find in our Constitution a provision whereby John Giles is always on the panel on nights such as these - a provision which supercedes anything else in the Constitution, in natural law, and in the ongoing strategy of the RTE sports department. And because it was inherently wrong, it had the unintended consequence of putting the wrong sort of pressure on Richie Sadlier, who writes an excellent column for this paper, and who had made a difference the previous week with his dissenting voice on John Delaney's compo settlement with FIFA.

We had been warned that this issue might be taken up by a plane flying over the Aviva bearing the message, 'Delaney Out', bringing us a twisted echo of poet Philip Larkin - that man hands on eejitry to man.

But all we saw was the panel of Dunphy, Brady and Sadlier rising above it all, giving nothing away to the body-language experts looking for signs of rancour, getting through a full hour of a build-up to the game by talking about the game and only about the game.

Yes, there was a game, and Rod Stewart was at it - Rod who had followed Scotland when they had great players. People used to think it was a fad, that Rod in his tartan regalia wasn't genuine, and yet here he is at the age of 70 still answering the call. They are all gone now, the great Scottish players, and most of the great Irish players are sitting in the RTE studio - or not, as the case may be.

We cheated the Scots, of course, with an offside goal, but you know what? We didn't feel too bad about it. In fact we felt great. Sue us.

They evened it up with a deflection for their equaliser, then we battered away at them, beseeching a goal and the delirium it would bring.

But it felt that for all of Ireland's good-hearted efforts, we were never going to get what we wanted from this game - it was almost as if the baleful gods of football were unhappy with us for some reason. Oh I wonder what that might be?


Sunday Independent