THEY tend to take the scenic route in Texas when they want to let you know you’ve become surplus to requirements.
The boys in the Lone Star State, as was the case with one College football coach after a string of bad results in Odessa, plant “For Sale” signs in your front lawn: “Y’all don’t come back now, ya hear.”
It’s unlikely that Ireland boss Martin O’Neill will arrive home to find distraught Irish supporters moonlighting as auctioneers in his shrubbery, but it’s hard to see how he can continue given the recent humiliation endured versus Denmark at Lansdowne Road.
O’Neill is, as the Americans say, a lame duck leader after the 5-1 drubbing with qualification for the World Cup on the line. Likewise with his sidekick Roy Keane, Ireland’s brooding Heathcliff. Keane, judging by his unruly beard, looks as if he’s considering inking a three-year deal with Islamic State FC.
O’Neill agreed terms with the FAI for a new contract before the Denmark debacle, but nothing has been signed. It would be probably better if he left, as otherwise he’ll only be hanging about reminding us of what could have been when the planet’s top football nations head off to the World Cup in Russia next year, leaving poor old Paddy to peer through the frosted window pane like an abandoned orphan. Alone again, naturally.
Similarly, former Limerick United boss Eoin Hand walked the plank after a 4-1 defeat to Denmark in Lansdowne Road in the mid-1980s. Hand was on £19,500 a year when he resigned as Irish manager. O’Neill was on circa €1 million a year in 2016, around €111,000 per game. How can you Gloria Gaynor on that?
An FAI committee talks of building toward the qualifiers for the Euros and Qatar 2022. It all looks like a mirage at the moment, leaving aside that they say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.
There’s no shortage of camels in Qatar, but, given the direction our national sport is heading, we might not be there either, riding forth onto the Arabian Peninsula on a contrary ungulate, like a freckled, half cut Laurence of Arabia.
Meantime, our national broadcaster has spent the last number of weeks hunkered down highlighting Ireland’s greatest sporting moments – whilst skilfully avoiding some of Ireland’s greatest sporting moments.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with the RTÉ 2 series, except that you get the feeling that you’ve suddenly been transported into an alternative universe where some reputations are blown out of all proportions and others are distorted and blurred.
In Best Sporting Moments of the 1980s, Ray Houghton’s goal against England at Euro 1988, which won the accolade, Seamus Darby’s strike for Offaly versus Kerry in 1985, Stephen Roche’s Tour de France win and Barry McGuigan’s WBA and Eamon Coghlan’s World victories were shortlisted.
But John Tracey’s Olympic silver medal at Los Angeles 1984 was conspicuously absent. Consequently, we were left marvelling at the existential trajectory of our old friend, the high, dropping ball, being ballooned into the kill zone, as opposed to a silver medal at the 23rd Olympiad.
And there was legendary Darby, only just introduced as sub, on the other end of the Hail Mary to bury the orb in the roof of the net and destroy Kerry’s five-in-a-row tilt out of sheer spite. Darby “lept” into the air after his strike, like an Opus Dei inspired goat, to add to the optics.
Meanwhile, professional cycling operates under the assumption, de facto, as they say in Cavan, that most of the cyclists are on performance-enhancing bob martins.
That left McGuigan’s and Coglan’s titles, with panellists Joe Brolly, a GAA pundit, and Eamon Dunphy, a football pundit, going out of their way to downgrade McGuigan, who dethroned Panama’s defending WBA champion Eusebio Pedroza in London in 1985. Pedroza was on his 19th title defence.
“It took him 15 rounds to do a job he should have done in five,” hissed Dunphy, quoting McGuigan’s manager at the time, Barney Eastwood. Brolly said, in relation to the top three: “Anyone but McGuigan to start with, I just don’t like the man,” while the third panellist, Sonia O’Sullivan, said that her fellow Irish Olympian could only beat who is in front of him.
In 1985, the great boxing scribe Hugh McIlvanney wrote: “He (McGuigan) refused to be frustrated or diminished by the unbreakable spirit of one of the finest champions the featherweight division has ever seen. Pedroza showed bewildering class.”
McGuigan, refused to rise to the bait when contacted by Limerick Life: “I really have no comment to make on Joe Brolly and Eamon Dunphy on RTE except to say that my achievements speak for themselves,” he said.
Meantime, in Best Sporting Moments of the 1990s, Ruby Walsh, Dervla O’Rourke, and Ronan O’Gara, who, if he’d brought any less concentrated effort to his task would have slipped into a coma, were the panellists.
The penalty shoot-out at Italia 1990 won. Fair enough, but Michael Carruth’s gold medal at Barcelona 1992, our first
Olympic gold since Ronnie Delaney in 1956, finished outside the top three.
Walsh had a canary about Houghton’s goal against Italy at the 1994 World Cup being shortlisted while O’Rourke reckoned that Sonia O’Sullivan’s World gold medal (3rd) merited a higher placing than Carruth’s Olympic gold (4th) in her Best Moments.
No, it doesn’t. An Olympic gold trumps World gold every time. Naturally, Ken Doherty’s World snooker title, Steve Collins’ WBO super-middle victories and Cork’s hurling and football double, all claimed in the 1990s, were ignored.
However, it’s the downgrading of Olympic medals, albeit by online and text votes, that’s disturbing. Ireland, if you take out Michelle Smith’s tarnished exploits at Atlanta 1996, has won six gold and ten silver medals since entering the Olympics independently at Paris 1924.
One of those silver medals didn’t even make the shortlist in Best Sporting Moments of the 1980s and Carruth’s gold against Cuban great Juan Hernández-Sierra, a two-time Olympic finalist, four-time World champion and two-time Pan American titlist, finished 4th in a field of five. The Nazarene wept. What about Paddy?