Remembering the missing amid World Cup gluttony

The lads from Sky, who landed on a mercy mission Thursday, reminded me why I’ll never go to a World Cup, writes Larry Ryan

Remembering the missing amid World Cup gluttony

They were out because half the channels had stopped working and, critically, the second box was banjaxed altogether. Their technical diagnosis: an old dish that was now “bent as fuck”.

This state of affairs had initially triggered some domestic discussion about cancelling the Sky altogether. And yet, as if marking a peaceful resolution to these crisis talks, Sky Sports News was still going on Thursday morning, assessing who had come out best from that morning’s Premier League fixture list.

And here were the two lads, ready to upgrade the Sky, to put in the Sky Q.

Before their business was done, the lads had carried out an entertaining pantomime, abusing one another up and down the ladder, as they wrestled for a signal.

A cover version of myself and the oul lad back in the day, scratching around for ‘the channels’ as kick-off loomed.

And then, like in the good 20 minutes at the start of a Harry Potter film, they showed me the magic, the crux of it being: “If the missus comes in and you’re watching a match, you can just pause it and restart it upstairs.”

If I was adequately woke, maybe this should have been challenged as an outrageously sexist scenario. Instead, in those moments of great excitement, I instinctively regarded it a very likely scenario. And began to savour the life-changing development these good men had announced.

When you consider that, even on a reverse retreat, the downstairs TV is fully out of eyeline on the fifth step of the stairs, and the upstairs TV takes its time to limber up, this box synchronicity may eliminate blackouts as long as 20 seconds during matches.

And in the elation of this moment, it was clear that traipsing around Russia, missing loads of matches, would have been a complete non-runner, a needless repetition of Con Houlihan’s famous regret: “Italia ’90? I missed it… I was in Italy at the time”.

So with four matches in store, and two televisions in tune with one another, a Saturday of great bliss awaits, a day to get in touch with the original sin that makes the World Cup great, gluttony.

It is a great triumph of quantity over quality, something the naysayers to a 48-team tournament must take into

account.

And yet, amid this enormous sense of well-being this morning, something feels slightly off. Could it be the fact that three of the men central to that Italia ’90 experience are now missing?

When Con talked of missing Italia ’90, he referred, of course, as much to the unstoppable delirium that enveloped the place, as much as the football on the telly. But it was still the men on the telly who told us we were delirious or tried to rein in the delirium, only adding to the intoxication in the process.

And yet a Father’s Day promotion for the National Lottery confirmed this week that John Giles will be watching the World Cup on his own telly for the first time since 1986.

“We’ll have a nice family meal and exchange some gifts. After that, we’ll have to leave him alone and get out of his way so he can watch all of the football matches in peace,” promised his son Chris, a man who hasn’t forgotten the true meaning of Father’s Day.

But the rest of us are without Gilesy today and tomorrow. And we are all, including, sadly, their families, without Bill O’Herlihy and Jimmy Magee too.

The Ireland distraction carried us through Euro 2016, without Billo. And Jimmy had been a peripheral figure in recent tournaments, even if he could still be relied upon to pop up, from the Montrose broom cupboard, with a few gems.

But this may be RTÉ’s biggest test. Can the panel still keep the nation talking? Funnily enough, the men who need you to stay tuned in until the talking stops have their doubts.

In a frank interview with Mary Hannigan last week for The Irish Times, the Apres Match trio wondered if the panel could ever recapture old glories.

As Risteard Cooper put it, “Darragh will chat journalistically with Richie and Damien, or whoever, and a lot of people will… be on Netflix.”

“When Bill went they needed to radically shake it up,” added Cooper. “I mean after game 32 of the World Cup. Bill was was almost like an agitator, stirring things up, ‘that’s not what you said last week’, it was about how he could tease a conversation out.”

Interestingly, RTÉ had an agitator on their books, another man missing from this tournament. Instead, Kenny Cunningham is holding court entertainingly on Off The Ball, where he just told us how he once recovered from a gaffe that cost Ireland dear against Croatia by ignoring his teammates for days and burying his head in Ulysses.

Crucially, Kenny confirmed he never finished Ulysses, because he is not a spoofer, which is what made his relationship with Eamo so entertaining and their obvious enmity box office, baby.

But that’s gone too and we won’t truly know if RTÉ can still hold our attention until England take the stage on Monday night.

England games are the big nights, without Ireland involved, Darragh Maloney told us, before the tournament.

Billo was at his very best on England nights, chuckling and probing, wondering if it was a shambles. And Gilesy would not be found wanting telling us why it was a shambles, identifying who wasn’t making himself available to receive the ball.

Maybe it is Duffer who will step up. When it went wrong for England in Brazil, Gilesy told us they weren’t ready to kill their grannies for it. This time round, Duffer already suspects they’re not ready to take a bullet for it. A subtle difference, but a sign the student has been studying the liturgies of moral courage.

Still, I’ll think of Gilesy, on Father’s Day, watching Brazil, as I’ll remember another missing man who once gave up on the aerial and the ladder and hot-footed it down the road to the neighbours with a five-year-old just in time to catch Kempes’ second in ’78. Who gave me a taste for gluttony.

Taking VAR to school

Before World Cup business yesterday there was time for a school sports day.

Thankfully, no shocking episodes of parental shame to admit to — or hamstrings pulled like in Liam Mackey’s last dad’s race. If anything, critics might say the event lacked a little bite and ‘controvassy’ but I suppose they are only six.

Certainly no scenes like those reported this week from a sports day in Wales where the influence of the World Cup might be a factor in the demand for video evidence among competitive parents.

Staff at Mynydd Bychan school in Cardiff told The Mirror that pushy parents were approaching them with mobile phone finish line footage demanding their son or daughter have their race placings upgraded.

We may not be there yet but the GAA’s community and health manager, Colin Regan, this week told an Oireachtas committee on children and youth affairs that parental behaviour on the sideline was a “big issue” an underage games.

Just wait ‘til Croke Park bow to pressure to ‘go upstairs’ in big matches.

HEROES & VILLAINS 

Brian Kerr: Livened up a phenomenally poor second half of Morocco-Iran, with one stricken Moroccan pronounced “banjoed" and the luckless Aziz Bouhaddouz deemed to have “murdered his team and let his country down.”

Marcelo Bielsa: If Leeds can have him, why couldn’t we?

HELL IN A HANDCART 

Cristiano Ronaldo: The top top players have never copped any grief on this page for their riches, standing, as they do, on top of perhaps the world’s only true meritocracy. But wouldn’t it be lovely, all the same, if we learned one or two of them paid their taxes?

RTÉ Player: Suppose you were lured away from your two televisions during World Cup day two; you wouldn’t want to be relying on this. Still a shambles.

Julen Lopetegui: If Spain come out of this one in any kind of shape, the cult of the manager may never recover.

VAR: Brilliant as the goal was, Costa’s goal standing underlines what a mockery this system will make of the game.

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