Move over Natalie Portman... Stephen Ireland auditions for the part of a ballerina in Black Swan
Hidden amidst all the cricket coverage (now suddenly Ireland’s most popular sport for some reason) in the sports pages of today’s Irish Times is a report on an eye-openingly frank interview with Newcastle and former Rep of Ireland midfielder, the improbably named Stephen Ireland, “Ireland goes on the attack”, page 23.
Well, a good many years ago I remember the manager of the Welsh football team was called Mike England, but as the smaller less talented still alive half of the Two Ronnies used to say “I digress”.
Ireland (the footballer not the country) famously courted controversy a few years when he told the Rep of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni he was unable to play in the forthcoming international fixture as his grandmother had just died.
It soon emerged that the old lady in question was actually very much alive and young Stephen was in fact telling a massive porky pie just to get out of playing in the match.
What is it with Irish soccer players and grannies? Not so long ago, there were few players on the team with Irish accents, but they could all claim at least one Irish granny.
In this interview Ireland makes clear his views on Ireland – both the team (the southern one that is) and the country. His criticism of “foreign managers” in the interview is interesting, (“they’re no good” he says), but I’d love to see him saying that to Jack Charlton’s face.
So here we have a tattooed outspoken footballer from Cork who likes to speak his mind with brutal honesty, who once plied his trade with an expensive Premiere League club in Manchester before moving to a less successful club in the north-east of England, but refuses to play for his national team and has a pop at the manager – it sounds all too familiar…
It would be churlish of me to use the old cliché “it’s only a game”, but to quote a popular expression “shit happens”. OK, I was disappointed with the outcome (more for the supporters than the players though, who always have their big mansions, Porsches and trophy wives to go back to) , but wouldn’t go so far as to say gutted. We all know that on occasion no matter how hard we try we don’t always get what we want. A great a many things in life aren’t fair and this is simply one of them.
What those who demand a replay fail to acknowledge is that even if the goal had been disallowed, France probably would have won on penalties anyway. And if Ireland had taken their chances properly they would have won. As Twenty Major points out:
I mean, did FIFA fix it for Kevin Doyle to miss a great chance with a header? Did FIFA fix it for John O’Shea to be found free at the back post only to hoof the ball over the bar like a GAA player? Did FIFA fix it for Damien Duff to be clean through on goal only to miss a great chance? And did FIFA fix it for Robbie Keane to be one on one with the keeper only to fuck it up by trying to be too clever?
And as someone on Slugger O’Toole pointed out, England won the World Cup in 1966 by a wrong decision when the ball clearly hadn’t crossed the line, but got their comeuppance 20 years later with the infamous Maradona “hand of God” goal. What goes around comes around.
If it’s any consiolation, it was an achievement in itself for a bunch of journeymen from Hull, Preston and Wolves to take a team of Champions League players to the wire. Yes it was unjust, scandalous and all the rest.