Good on Paper: When Irish Lines are Spoiling

LET’S face it. The morale of the Irish people is like a smouldering fire in a landfill somewhere in County Kildare; down in the dumps. Our football team did nothing to arrest this melancholy when the Russians made us resemble more clowns than the Moscow State Circus last October.

A week on from the Nations Cup victory over Wales, there are still several reasons for concern that the country will be denied the boost of the national side qualifying for a major tournament. A poor first half, coupled with the faith in the manager waning, means Giovanni Trapattoni’s charges are not necessarily distracting us from our economic woes.

We are quick to self-flaggelate, and God knows we are used to the world’s media flying in with studs up in recent months, but the one thing the Irish don’t take to is piss-taking from our neighbours across the Irish sea.

The only thing worse is criticism from an Irishman to gain favour with his English cronies.

Granted, last week’s clash with Wales hardly inspired praise but the Guardian’s match-cast from the Aviva Stadium got enough niggly digs in to make the Irish midfield envious.

Match-casts, by their nature, invite the writers to impart some of their own personalities into the piece. But if your an Irishman writing for a primarily British audience, there’s a cardinal rule: ‘Don’t show weakness in front of the English.’

“Out toddle the teams. Owing to the FAI’s extravagant pricing policy most seats are empty. Well done lads.”

It’s a cheap shot but when you know the writer is Irish, like a bank rating, it’s downgraded to junk status. It’s become a lazy cliché too. FAI = shambolic, Irish football team = fair game.

The governing body, perhaps indefinitely, cannot shake the stain of Saipan.

“The Welsh tune is followed by a perkier-than-usual blast of Amhrán na bhFiann. The tens of people who know all of the words croon along.”

“Let us pause to catch our breath. Or, to be more precise, get reanimated. For this is a slow burner. Or maybe just a flaming waste of time.”

Maybe the points are legitimate but they’re unnecessary and they’re tiresome. Are they funny? Debatable. The Irish not knowing their anthem? We were hearing that in Big Jack’s day. The merits of the Nations’ Cup could be argued either way.

Yet trying to introduce a competitive element to what are otherwise run-of-the-mill friendlies deserves some acknowledgement.

Self-criticism is the preserve of every Irishman and nobody does it better than the football hacks. During his managerial stints, Roy Keane was a regular critic of the Irish football team and its entourage and he was the darling of the Irish sports media because of it. Toss him a line and Keano would bite.

Yet he was hailed since 2002 as the man who was standing up against the stereotype of the Irish as the ‘mediocre will do’. No one has done more to perpetuate to the English media that little has changed than Keane himself despite having no involvement in the Irish set-up since 2005.

It has been all too easy for Irish sports writers to follow the Keanite line and they have done it with relish. Which is why the snide comments in the Guardian simply feed into a needless and, at times, inaccurate perception.

Hardly enough to exercise callers to Joe Duffy but if you are going to wash your dirty linen in public, you don’t have to bleach your green sheets.

Had it been written in an English tabloid, there may well have been uproar in Ireland.

Perhaps because it appeared on the Guardian website, it’s considered acceptable because, in theory, it’s informed.

Sadly, the author in this case has form. Prior to Shamrock Rovers’ tie with Juventus in the Europa League, he wrote.

“’We do not know Shamrock Rovers and therefore we have to study them through videos’ – Juventus forward David Lanzafame looks forward to next week’s Big Vase third round qualifier against Irish side Shamrock Rovers in Robbie Keane’s hometown of Tallaght. If Juventus lose, they won’t be the first Old Lady to have been mugged in the notoriously rough Dublin village.”

Tongue in cheek? Or thumbing a nose?

The fact that an Irishman wrote it for an international audience is just disheartening.

Irish people feel low enough already.

The saying goes ‘when all you have is nothing, there’s plenty to go round’ but we still have pride.

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