Despite the fears of some journalists, the match went off with the minimum of problems with facilities, writes Liam Mackey.
The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round and the journos on the bus go moan, moan, moan…
So there we were, a little group of us huddled together outside the Aviva before the Dutch friendly last Friday, doing what any self-respecting hic of hacks gathered anywhere has gotta do: moaning heroically about the bad craziness that was bound to ensue at Turner’s Cross the following Tuesday, what with only a few of the huge media contingent expected at the Belarus game set to have access to wi-fi, a power-point and a desk, and with the early, ominous word from the FAI indicating that, after the final whistle, Martin O’Neill’s Euros squad announcement would probably only become available to us at a late, late, deadline-busting hour.
Worked up by ever more apocalyptic visions — “it’ll be mayhem,” I tell you, “bloody mayhem” — we were just on the point of achieving a critical mass of righteous indignation when one of our wiser elder brethren, a man of beard even greyer than my own, came among us preaching words of wisdom.
But his message wasn’t so much ‘let it be’ as ‘would yiz ever cop yourselves on’.
And he told us the tale of the long-ago time when he was covering an Ireland game in Moscow and found that, just as his copy deadline was about to fall on him like a guillotine, his landline in the press box suddenly went dead.
Frantically looking around for help, he was approached by a local telecoms engineer who calmly assured him that, yes, he could certainly fix the problem but, ah, it might cost sir a few of his finest pounds.
One hundred, to be exact.
Rouble with a capital T, you might say but, with time running out, our man had no option other than to fork over all the cash he had in his possession on the spot and, sure enough, with the line instantly and miraculously restored, he was able to send his match report winging its way to Ireland just in time to ensure its availability for the nation’s perusal over the following morning’s porridge.
Back at his newspaper office after the trip, he diligently filled in his Moscow travel expenses, including a claim to cover the wildly extortionate telephone charge.
But accounts weren’t happy: could he please furnish them with a receipt?
And this was the point at which our hero was heard to utter the immortal cry: “The Russian mafia don’t give f**king receipts.”
As well as giving us all a much-needed shot of perspective, the elder’s intervention was a reminder that, when not in full-on moaning mode, a confederacy of scribes can always be relied upon to entertain itself with the telling of stirring war stories — some of which may even be true.
The gold medal for services thus rendered this past week in Cork goes to an English colleague who regaled a few of us one night with the real facts behind a couple of Premier League injury reports which, when they appeared in print, would have seemed to those not in the know as altogether run of the mill. You know the sort: “…also ruled out of the game is Joe Bloggs (ankle), Jack Bloggs (knee)” etc.
The truth? Turns out that one well-known player who was officially marked absent with a “groin strain” was actually incapacitated because he’d taken too many Viagra the previous night and — despite the best combined efforts of physios and medics to, as it were, soften the blow — was still most painfully rampant by the time kick-off approached.
Ah, dear. What a missed opportunity for TV pundits to show via freeze-frame just why the player had a goal correctly disallowed for marginal offside.
Indeed, as another colleague pointed out, it might even have been the first time in the history of the game that a goal-scorer would be heard protesting that, far from the decision being “marginal”, he was actually at a good six inches offside. At least.
Rather more touchingly, there was the case of a player sidelined by the ubiquitous groin problem after he had, in the words of an off-the-record briefing, “scalded his testicles” attempting to sterilise a bottle for his baby’s feed.
And finally there was the very high profile manager who, having first pleaded with a couple of trusted reporters not to go into print with the details he was about to reveal, proceeded to solemnly inform them that so-and-so would not be available for the next day’s game because — and I quote — “an in-grown hair in his anus has turned septic.”
The scribes duly complied with the manager’s wishes — once they’d stopped laughing hysterically, of course — but, as our colleague told us, he still found himself having to struggle manfully with the temptation to add the player to his injury list as, simply, “Joe Bloggs (arse)”.
But enough of the fun stuff; back to the moaning of life. And just as we’d predicted would happen at Turner’s Cross the other night, the whole thing was a professional disaster, the press box literally collapsing under the weight of the vast assemblage of hacks halfway through the match, with the result that — having lost all the essential tools of our trade in the ensuing chaos—some of us were obliged to climb onto what remained of the roof in an attempt to either convey our match reports via semaphore or, for those of us not skilled in that admirable art, snare a passing stray pigeon with which we might be able to convey our deathless prose direct to head office.
Well, actually, no.
In fact, everything was alright on the night apart, obviously, from the match itself. The weather was beautiful, Turner’s Cross was looking its most lovely and, all those working hard behind their scenes did their best to ensure that we in the meeja were able to go about our business with the minimum of grief.
Hell, they even provided a half-time goody bag containing a bottle of water, a sandwich, apple and chocolate bar.
Which was nice but… but… what about our comrades on gluten-free diets? Did anyone think of them? No they bloody well did not! And, while I’m at it, the shuttle bus that was laid on to take us to training in Fota was at least five minutes late the other morning. And furthermore (continues p94).
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