Smart choice is to watch women’s football

Wednesday evening had been intended as Cinema Evening, a new picture house having opened around the corner and being in need of investigation and appraisal. Given my enduring weakness for high-school movies there was only going to be one winner: Booksmart, in which two clever students realise on the eve of graduation that they should have worked less and played more, upon which they hit the town and attempt to cram four years of lost fun into one night.

The film scores a creditable 7.5 on IMDB.com. (By way of comparison The Breakfast Club, the Arkle of the genre, scores 7.9.) From the reviews it sounds great and clever fun, like something scripted by Jane Austen and directed by John Hughes.

Oooh I like that line! I can even visualise it in eight-foot high Showcard Gothic on billboards. “Booksmart is the brainy bastard offspring of Jane Austen and John Hughes – Enda ‘Pauline Kael’ McEvoy, Irish Examiner.” Bad news for any thoughts of making it as a film reviewer, alas. It turned out this page had to be filled. Bye bye Booksmart, hello the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Could have been worse, mind. Imagine if it had been Monday instead of Wednesday and I’d been compelled to watch Ireland versus Gibraltar. And no, of course I didn’t watch it. Ireland versus a minnow at the Aviva? You know it’s going to be dire, so why bother?

And if you bother, then please don’t complain about it afterwards, as many did on social media on Monday night. Sorry, folks: no sympathy.

Caveat emptor, which as any student of the classics will tell you is the Latin for What The Hell Else Were You Expecting From Ireland?

To Wednesday afternoon. TG4 are covering some of the games so we’re off to Grenoble, a “baile álainn”, with Garry Mac Donncha for Nigeria v South Korea. Nigeria have Onoma Ebi, the first African player to appear at five World Cup finals. Their opponents have plenty of Kims (Kim Minjung, Kim Hyeri, Kim Doyeon, Kim Deal). Within the first two minutes Gary is moved to bemoan a “pass míchruinn”. It’s just like watching Ireland alright.

After 28 minutes Nigeria take the lead after one of the Kims contrives to shank the ball into her own net and they wrap it up near the end when Chidinma Okeke hits a defence-splitting pass that Asisat Oshoala kills with an Evostik first touch before rounding the goalie and sliding home from an angle. Gary deems it to be a “cúl den chéad scoth” and he’s dead right.

Is it a compliment to say that Lionel Messi would have been proud of Oshoala’s goal?

Is it sexist to make such an observation? Is it wrong to compare women’s soccer to men’s? Should it be taken on its own merits instead? I have no idea of the etiquette here. I do know it was a bloody great goal.

Over to RTÉ, where Peter Collins is the man in the hot seat for Germany versus Spain in Valenciennes. He has Louise Quinn and Stephanie Roche as panellists and they provide grown-up analysis for grown-ups. Quinn in particular is superb with her centre-half’s deconstruction of the indecisiveness of the German central defenders and the way they’re letting too many balls in between them.

For the day’s final fixture, France versus Norway, Jacqui Hurley is in the chair with Emma Byrne and Kevin Doyle (definitely a TV find) alongside and George Hamilton and Ruth Fahy in Nice. Fifa president Gianni Infantino is there too, suited and booted in the soft seats, mais où est Monsieur Macron? And Donald Trump, in France as recently as last week for some beach party in Normandy, has missed a trick. Clearly nobody told him about the Women’s World Cup. Otherwise he’d have stayed.

Certainement. France and Norway has everything. A raucous atmosphere, a fine opening goal for the hosts, a laughable own goal to level, a VAR penalty to win it for Les Bleus. It’s been a long day but an enjoyable one and if it may smack of faint praise to say that the first round of a men’s World Cup has usually been rather less enjoyable, so be it.

On Thursday I’ll give it another go. I’ll have to. Booksmart has left town. Bah. If any reader has seen it, they might let me know what Molly Ringwald was like in it.

Backing against your team

Do dogs go to heaven? How small a tip is it legitimate to leave a rude waiter? And another great existential dilemma for our times: is it morally permissible to bet against one’s own team?

Scott Berry was in Las Vegas back in January when, seemingly armed with more money than sense, he stuck €400 at 250/1 on his beloved St Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup. They were bottom of the league at the time. Now they’re the new, first-time Stanley Cup champions and Berry is €100,000 richer.

He might have hedged or laid off along the way: he didn’t. He might, with the Blues 3-2 up before Game 6, have accepted offers of €75,000 to sell the bet: he didn’t, on the understandable grounds it would be bad karma.

Winning money on the back of your team losing is obviously a grey area. Yet this is one department in which a hardcore fan has a jump on the bookies. Because you’ve followed your boys for years and because your antennae are attuned to their form, injury situation, record against their opponents and whatnot, you’ll know when they’re underpriced or overpriced and can thus fill your boots.

Making money once or twice a season on them losing, on the one hand? No moral turpitude there. Making money ten or 15 times a season on them losing, in the event they’re terrible and are bound for relegation, on the other hand? Utterly beyond the pale.

In turning down that $75,000 Scott Berry avoided the unconscionable. Had St Louis lost he’d be $75,000 richer but would have missed out on the sporting thrill of a lifetime – and profited by doing so. The worst karma possible, you’ll agree.

Heroes & Villains

Stairway to Heaven

    Ronan O’Gara: La Rochelle boasts an oceanic climate (Gulf Stream), warm summers and Michelin Star restaurants. It’ll be like he never left Cork.
    Warren Gatland: Back for a third – and definitely final – spin on the Lions roundabout.

Hell in a Handcart

    London Irish RFU: What idiot assumed that signing Paddy Jackson was simply a business deal? Really…
    The Bora-Hansgrohe cycling team: Free Sam Bennett now!

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