Only A Game? - Trap, 3Mobile and James McClean...

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni during a press conference at the Torshavn stadium, Faroe Islands. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 15, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Ireland. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni during a press conference at the Torshavn stadium, Faroe Islands. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 15, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Ireland. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

So here’s the thing, I can’t recall a time watching a football match on the box more surreal than Friday’s World Cup 2014 qualifier between Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. I didn’t know if I was coming or going but sure at least the lads got a result...

The wind was howling away outside and every ten minutes or so the lights would dip because of the violent weather. But true to form, Bill O’Herlihy, John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and the voice of reason that is Liam Brady joined me in my living room for a good ole chin wag.

Bill tried to keep a hold on things as Giles, Dunphy and Brady battled for supremacy like three ageing warriors - it was a hoot!

After I’d settled myself I discovered that James ‘Boy Wonder’ McCarthy had in fact been named in Trap’s starting XI. Surely the guys at RTE had got it wrong - sure wasn’t Paul Green supposed to start ahead of McCarthy?

Well, onwards and upwards, I thought. My four suited and booted television friends departed my living room and the match started.

Would it be Germany at the Aviva Stadium all over again or would Trap continue to win some of us Ireland supporters back with a positive result? Well, if the first ten minutes was anything to go by then the Italian maestro, who celebrated his 74th birthday on St. Patrick’s Day last Sunday, appeared to have got his tactics right.

The carefully-placed microphones must have only been a few feet away from the Irish fans as I heard regular attempts at ‘we all dream of a team of Gary Breens’ and ‘come on you boys in green’. It was the closest thing to being there I could experience.

Then Shane Long almost scored. Sweet divine holy God, he almost had the ball in the net and I am an atheist - something’s not right here, I thought.

The young lad James McCarthy had a fantastic game as did Derry’s very own James McClean.

McCarthy’s display was a real coming-of-age performance. Like the last ten years had been focused on Robbie Keane, the next ten will be focused on McCarthy - he’s our best player, plain and simple.

But anyway, McClean, didn’t he have a cracker of a game? Winning the ball, tracking back, almost scoring - some more of that on Tuesday night against Austria would go down a treat.

Paul Green. Yes, you heard me, Paul ‘I came on against Spain instead of Darron Gibson at the European Championships in Gdansk’ Green had a great game.

I don’t for one minute think Real Madrid will be looking for him to replace Xabi Alonso anytime soon but he played well and along with a few others he managed to keep the inexplicably talented Zlatan ‘I’ll score from where I want’ Ibrahimovic as silent as a Buster Keaton movie on mute.

One of the greatest aspects of the entire evening was when Conor Sammon came on as second half substitute.

Sammon might not have had much of an impact but if you count David Forde and James McClean he was the third former Derry City player to feature in the game - what an achievement for a wee club from the Brandywell, take a bow!

Austria had fired six without reply past the Faroe Islands so it meant that anything less than a draw would Stockholm would spell disaster for Trap and the lads. But no panic button was required and they emerged with a well earned point.

I can honestly say it was the first time in perhaps the history of my life that I sat alone watching an Ireland game. But it was a welcome reminder of why, despite my undiminished scepticism and acute apathy towards the human race, I still enjoy watching Ireland play football.

It’s something I can’t get away from because there was something wonderfully wholesome about Friday’s showpiece. It had everything, from the ridiculously contrived 3Mobile advertisements at half-time to Bill et al, from the 30 something Robbie Keane to the youthful James McCarthy. All of a sudden I could see a future for the Boys In Green - something I have struggled with since the Croatia game in Poznan in June last year.

Then, the most entertaining event of the night happened.

After the game was over, Bill, John Eamon and, as I say, the voice of reason that is Liam Brady attempted to dissect the match like fumbling surgeons with thumbs for fingers. But instead of dissecting they sliced one another to shreds.

Brady accused Dunphy of calling Paul Green a ‘joke’ to which Bill interjected to say, ‘but he didn’t say it on air’.

Where else would you get it? Priceless stuff that even my late grandfathers would have appreciated.

I am not deluding myself - the nice experience of Friday night could prove to be just another false dawn, so to speak, if Trap fails to beat the Austrians on Tuesday. But here’s hoping for some more of that surrealistic panache because if the lads get a win then that trip to Rio next year might not just be another pipe dream...