So, that Christy Ring Cup final replay... Just kidding. Only one story this morning, let’s be honest.
Yesterday afternoon was probably the most testing examination of the nature of time since the movie Interstellar: you can work out for yourself, I’m sure, who played the Matthew McConaughey role for Ireland.
Scoring as early as Ireland did poses a significant question: how long is a minute? A half-hour? An hour and a half?
How does that break down into possessions, into passages, into opportunities? The cliche has it that it only takes a second to score a goal, but how many seconds go into creating the chance in the first place?
Yesterday’s first half in Lyon wasn’t the perfect illustration of those questions, though, simply because France weren’t very good. They weren’t hogging the ball and stroking it around — I really want to say ‘with Gallic insouciance’ — in front of the Irish box, deciding how to score. Anything but.
For long stretches of the first half, the proceedings were even. Ireland even had that Daryl Murphy chance to stretch their lead before the break (is Waterford native Murphy the only player ever to have his transfer negotiated during an Aosdána meeting, by the way — playwright and Waterford board member Jim Nolan had to step out to negotiate with Sunderland).
The time slipped by to half-time without dragging; in fact, you could make a sound enough argument that another few minutes would have benefited the men in green rather than the home side.
The second half was the opposite. Griezmann’s header — good touch for a small man — was a cruelty nobody wanted. A few minutes later he had a second, from an Anglo-Saxon knockdown into the channel provided by Giroud.
With half an hour to go, then, the imperative turned around completely. 30 minutes? More than enough time to get the goal to bring it to penalties: to have that period for 30 or 40 seconds when you get the upper hand and put the ball around, and work the one chance that you need.
Then Duffy got sent off.
That stretched the time another way again: not in a watching-through-your-fingers with the tension way, but a how-bad-will-it-get way. The French scuffed a few chances to extend their lead which wouldn’t encourage you about their future progress, but Randolph’s calmness should be acknowledged too.
(For all the references to Gaelic football in Seamus Coleman’s scrupulously legal pick-ups, the French forgot the first rule when the ball is rolling around the square: you draw first time rather than faffing around with it. Nice to see hapless officiating isn’t confined to the indigenous games, either: witness the corner missed from Ward’s shot after that first French goal.) Conclusions? Little Griezmann joins the bogey men like Schillachi and Kieft, that pantheon of anti-heroes responsible for dumping Ireland out of major tournaments. These are the men destined, in years to come, to figure prominently in 10th and 20th anniversaries, in lengthy print profiles and light TV shows: greyer and heavier, smiling bashfully as they recall that occasion in the long-distant past, maybe re-enacting a summer moment when they made themselves infamous in a country they’d never paid much attention to.
Conclusions? Little Griezmann joins the bogey men like Schillachi and Kieft, that pantheon of anti-heroes responsible for dumping Ireland out of major tournaments. These are the men destined, in years to come, to figure prominently in 10th and 20th anniversaries, in lengthy print profiles and light TV shows: greyer and heavier, smiling bashfully as they recall that occasion in the long-distant past, maybe re-enacting a summer moment when they made themselves infamous in a country they’d never paid much attention to.
Time again, eh? The Italians used to inscribe this on their clocks: each one hurts and the last one kills.
What are we going to do about Rory McIlroy? The golfer’s nervousness over the Zika virus and withdrawal from the Olympics is just another milestone in the public’s view of him, a forever-altering set of attitudes which never ceases to interest this observer.
McIlroy is young, successful, a terrific competitor, bland enough not to offend, at least, most of the time — and yet people just don’t seem to warm to him. When he pops up on TV, I always get a flash from LA Confidential, as the grizzled old police chief tells the young stickler to get rid of the glasses.
The odour of calculation always seems to hang around McIlroy, who seems the opposite of spontaneous in every press conference: a corporation guarding its credit rating in every comment. His reasons for opting out of the Olympics, it’s fair to say, didn’t grip anyone with conviction (if it’s such a small risk of contracting the virus... never mind).
Maybe McIlroy is unlucky in that he has taken up the mantle of great Irish golf hope from Pádraig Harrington, one of the few international-quality sportspeople who somehow has retained the conviction that sportspeople are human beings who should deploy good manners like everybody else.
McIlroy may have been doubly unlucky in that another player has come into view to steal the affections of the casual golf-watching Irish public when it looked like he might have the field to himself. Shane Lowry gives off the aura of a lad you’d be happy standing next to on the terrace of O’Moore Park for a national league game, and people respond to that.
Clearly, Lowry is as savage a competitor and as dedicated as McIlroy; what he doesn’t seem to pay as much attention to is his image. I say ‘seem’ because I don’t have access to the Lowry kitchen cabinet, but it looks unlikely that his advisers have over-coached him in PR.
I’m open to the possibility that they’ve coached him so well that you can’t even tell, but even if that (remote) likelihood is true, he hides it a lot better. Isn’t that all that counts?
Before anyone accuses me of anti-McIlroy bias, can I just point out that WADA, the world anti-doping organisation, suspended a drug- testing lab last Friday for “non-conformity”. I am not sure what “non-conformity” means, exactly, but it’s fair to say that’s a quality more welcome in an emo songwriter than in a laboratory trying to catch drug cheats.
Oh, killer detail: that laboratory is in Rio de Janeiro. You know, where the Olympics are due to be held. Yes, that’s right. The lab which is supposed to catch cheaters at the Olympics has been suspended because it can’t do its job properly.
Maybe Rory McIlroy has a point when he’s dubious about going to Brazil.
The GAA’s current broadcasting deals have this year to go, then they come up for renegotiation. There’ll be a fair focus on those negotiations when they roll around again, with RTÉ, Sky and TG4 trying to maintain or improve their current deals.
What can we expect? A lot of huffing and puffing, with heavy hints being dropped by all sides about what they want and what they like and what they can afford. During last week, however, this column was told that another entrant to the market is likely to shake things up. Another broadcaster. Watch this space for details.
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