Wednesday 23 October 2019

Calm down, calm down, calm down...

Weird Wide World of Sport

Ireland's Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe celebrate following their victory over France
Ireland's Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe celebrate following their victory over France

Dave Devereux

Aren't we a strange little nation when it comes to supporting our sports stars all the same?

When things are going well we get more carried away than a bag for life, and when one of our own takes a proverbial body blow to the gut it's more doom and gloom than an episode of Eastenders.

Like many an Irish drinker's alcoholic beverage of choice, we seem to view the theatre that's played out in front of us on sports fields in plain black and white.

Take our football team for example - after Shane Long's stunning strike sent the Germans home with their tails between their legs last week the team was rightfully lauded for achieving their most meaningful victory in almost a decade and a half and the prospect of watching them play was as inviting as the creamy head on a pint of plain.

Fast forward a few days and when we lost out to Poland we were wallowing in the depths of the dark, murky underworld that lies beneath.

When we could only manage a draw with Scotland in June nobody (myself included) gave us a hope of clinching a play-off spot and you couldn't possibly have envisaged that we'd be despondent after failing to seal automatic qualification to the Euros.

Looking at the sour-faced post-match analysis on RTE you'd swear we had blown a ten-point lead at the top of the table.

I'm pretty certain if you compared the pundits' comments after the win over Germany to Sunday night's offerings, you'd find that the panellists contradicted themselves on numerous occasions.

Also the over the top salivating over Wes Hoolahan would get on your nerves. The Norwich City man performed brilliantly against the Germans but describing him as being head and shoulders above the rest after the game is just plain wrong.

For example, James McCarthy, a player who has received his fair share of criticism, was superb in front of the back four, and all around him stepped up to the mark.

Beating the world champions was a gargantuan achievement but in future we need to tone down the superlatives until the job is done.

Unfortunately, we're following exactly the same predictable path with the Irish rugby team. The win against France was undoubtedly special and the performance levels, particularly after losing talismanic figures Jonathan Sexton, Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony, were nothing short of sensational, but some of the horse dung spouted by pundits and supporters alike was nauseous.

Stuff like it was Ireland's greatest-ever performance and other such tripe. Sure we outclassed the French, but they're a team that we've proven to be better than over the last number of years.

Okay, they may have had the Indian sign over us in previous World Cups, but that doesn't count for a whole lot as most other top tier teams do as well, given our appalling record at the tournament.

After all the hullabaloo and fist pumping following our win over Australia in the 2011 World Cup and our subsequent capitulation against Wales in the quarter-final, you'd have thought we'd have learned our lesson.

All we learned from Sunday's heroic display is that Ireland badly want to right the wrongs of previous competitions and are willing to put their bodies on the line to achieve their goal.

We have one of the best coaches in the game steering the ship in Joe Schmidt, but what we still don't know is if our team has improved sufficiently to take on and topple the might of the leading southern hemisphere sides, starting with Argentina next Sunday.

We should have enough to scrape past the sizable challenge of Los Pumas but considering our list of absentees is growing faster than Pinocchio's nose, you couldn't take anything for granted.

We tend to chuckle to ourselves when the English media build up their national teams for the inevitable fall but it appears that we are fast becoming very much like our neighbours.

Some of the nonsense I've heard in the last couple of days reminds me of dealing with my three- and five-year-olds (not that I'm accusing my little darlings of talking rubbish of course).

As any parent of little ones knows, you're either the greatest daddy or mammy in the world, when they get what they want, or the worst, when you say no; there's no rational thinking and there's definitely no in between.

In the eyes of Irish supporters our national teams can go from the top of a mountain to the depths of a cavern in a matter of a few days.

I as much as the next Irishman want to see our country's proud representatives lift the Webb Ellis Cup and reach Euro 2016 but, like a drunk after imbibing too many pints of porter or an airplane when there's an ash cloud hovering above, we need to stay grounded.

Wexford People