THE news that former Limerick and Ireland boss, Eoin Hand, emptied a pint over Eamon Dunphy’s furrowed brow helped lighten the foreboding in the hours before Ophelia, Hamlet’s melancholic main squeeze, barrelled through the realm like a cannon in the rain.
A consistent contender for the irritant of the year award for three straight decades, Dunphy has long been a thorn in the side of Irish managers.
But Hand, who helped steer Limerick to the League of Ireland title in 1980 before stepping down fully to take the Irish job, extracted a degree of comeuppance in 1986 after christening, so to speak, the RTE pundit, who at one stage wrote a bizarre article comparing the ex-Blues player-manager to Richard Nixon.
“I came across Dunphy in Joy’s nightclub. I walked over and emptied my glass of beer over his head. It was a small act of retribution for the hell he had put me and my family through,” explained Hand in an extract from his book First Hand: My Life and Irish Football published in the Sunday Times.
The price – look away – of a pint in 1986 was €1.64 in today’s dinero. Not that the incident deterred Dunphy. He once, for instance, appeared to be calling for Steve Staunton to be sacked as Irish boss before Staunton was actually appointed to the job. It set new journalistic standards for our national sport.
These days, the “Dunph” is, alas, more circumspect; no more explaining in existential detail why Big Jack had poor auld Paddy playing football from the game’s deep, dark past.
Dunphy once demanded that Ireland’s football stars should have the moral courage to get on the ball and play, to, the horror, the horror, as Marlon Brando muttered in Apocalypse Now, pass the ball to each other. Radicals, eh?
But following our dreadful win – 89 minutes of frenetic mediocrity, one minute of inspiration – over Wales to make the World Cup play-offs versus Denmark, he droned that Ireland had “courage and things that go beyond the technical.”
Ireland completed just 63% of attempted passes versus Wales. The game also set a new and unwanted record. Fifty-eight aerial duels were contested, the most of any game in the European groups – and the highest since the Luftwaffe battled the RAF in a WW2 qualifier.
Technique, meantime, is courage. It’s the courage of tens of thousands of hours of practice and of applying what you’ve learned to your chosen trade.
Ronan O’Gara applied it when he, with at least four runaway forklifts coming at him, 80 stone on the hoof, as the great Bill McLaren might say, dissected the posts to help secure Ireland’s first Grand Slam in decades. Our boxers, hurlers, Gaelic footballers, rugby players and athletes apply same on any given weekend.
James McClean’s goal against Wales was the courage to rely on technique, as opposed to the hyperventilating hysteria which absolves some players of the responsibility to apply know-how.