LIAM MACKEY: A red card for our friend in the north

Dear Santa
Well, old sport, that was a bit of a damp squib wasn’t it?

The end of the world, I mean. Just goes to show that you can’t trust anything that comes out of the mouths of that crowd up in Mayo.

I suppose we should all be grateful that another day has dawned but I’m bound to admit that, on a purely personal note, the failure of the final conflagration to materialise as predicted came as a bit of a blow.

The great upside of the thing from my point of view was that it would have provided a cast-iron excuse for not having to file a column this week.

I’d even thought through the conversation I’d have with the Commander-In-Chief: “Er, boss, it’s not looking too good here: fireballs are raining from the sky, massive waves are rearing up out of the sea, mountains are exploding, the ground is splitting apart beneath my feet and I wouldn’t mind but the damn wifi is on the blink again. To be honest, I’d say I’d be doing well now just to get that expenses claim in…”

Yeah, I reckon even himself would have had to take that one on the chin — unlike last week when I have to say he reacted with something less than decent Christian sympathy to the revelation that the dog had eaten my computer. Ye gods, Santa, such language! Anyway, the fact that the world still appears to be turning does offer me a welcome opportunity to drop you this seasonal note, though I’m not sure your mood will be any better than mine by the time you’ve finished reading it.

Thing is, Santa, that I wrote to you this time last year with a very modest request. Lest your memory is letting you down at this busy time of the year, please allow me to refresh it by quoting from my missive of 12 months ago: “I don’t actually want anything from you, Santa, certainly nothing that you will have to haul down the chimney and place under the tree. Nope, all I want you to do is to wrap something. Or, to be precise, some people. See, we’re off to the Euros in the summer and what with the poor old country knee-deep in gloom, we really need things to go as well as possible. Which is why I want you to wrap up a few people, Santa, fellas with names like Duffer, Keano, Shay and Big Dunney, to ensure they’re kept safe and sound through winter and spring until we need to call on them again in the glorious summer.”

Well, that worked out well, didn’t it Santa?

And less of the mock sincerity, please, about how you did no more or less than you were asked.

You’re a smart man and you’re well able to read between the lines. (Which reminds me, when I also wrote in my list last year asking for “another title for Rovers” — you knew exactly what I meant, you great pillock).

Yeah, it’s gloves off, fat man. As you well understood, the whole point of getting the lads to Poland was that, once there, they’d, y’know, actually play some football and maybe even, like, win a match? (Well, okay then, draw a match). Instead, what we had to endure was the sporting version of what I understand to be an old Christmas morning trick of yours. You know the one: little Johnny rips open the wrapping, lets out a squeal of delight and with trembling hands assembles his Sooper-Dooper-Master-Blaster-With-All-Working-Parts only to discover, at his moment of keenest anticipation and purest joy, that one S. Claus has only gone and FORGOTTEN THE DAMN BATTERIES! Yeah, that was Ireland at the Euros, Santa: we showed up alright but then we did bugger all. (And don’t even think about saying, “but what about Sean St Ledger?”). Really, is it any wonder we weren’t too bothered by the end of the world this week – as a nation, we’d already been through the equivalent and worse this summer.

So here’s the thing, Santa. You might think you’re The Man, swanning around the globe once a year, eating and drinking at our expense, and then retiring to your gaudy ice-mansion. And indeed these are tough times, dear Santa – in fact, I notice you’re getting dearer every year – but let me remind you that in the age of austerity there ain’t no such thing as job security, not even at the top of the world.

So hear this: unless you deliver something rather more uplifting when Ireland visit Sweden in March – a miracle would help, for a start – then I know someone who would be perfectly equipped to step into your furry boots.

He’s a leader, an icon, a force of nature who never leaves a job half-done.

He’s entirely accustomed to performing heroics in red and white.

And, as he might say himself, even if he didn’t have any elves, he’d have top-class facilities up there at the North Pole. All this, and he’s still in the market for a big job.

So take this as a warning: fail to prepare, Santa baby, prepare to fail.



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