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TV Review - The Highlights As Apres Match Run Riot Over The 3rd Place Play Off

TV Review - The Highlights As Apres Match Run Riot Over The 3rd Place Play Off
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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For years, RTE's football coverage gave Irish fans a sense of superiority to those caught helplessly beneath the benighted yolk of the BBC and Keys and Gray. Bill and the Amigos imbued us all with a kind of smugness, given we had access to the kind of higher plane of knowledge purely because RTE had no issue calling the occasional Premier League game shit.

These are lost days.

RTE's coverage isn't what it was, and it has been outstripped by Carragher and Neville to the extent that UK viewers have as much a right as we do to claim that theirs is the true understanding of the great game.

There is a quadrennial exception, however: the occasion of the 3rd/4th place play-off at the World Cup. There is no earthly reason for the game to exist other than FIFA saying it should, so RTE do the right thing and hand over the keys of the studio to Apres Match.

If comedy is the art of being told the truth quickly, it is on a day as farcical as this that RTE and the comedy trio adequately interrogate the absurdity at the heart of FIFA and Gianni Infantino, a preposterous man deriving status from gurning while breaking ice with demagogues and other terrible men.

Apres Match opened with Peter Collins presenting alongside Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady. They captured Collins' staccato questioning exquisitely, replicating that vaguely thrilling experience of never quite knowing when Collins' question is actually fully asked.

Whatever it, or was, is not going home. Yet England have been asking it to go home during the whole tournament but they are not allowed to go home until they play Belgium again in a hum-dinger in Russia to decide who comes third in the World Cup in Russia in 2018. The stakes could not be higher.

Joining me to provide expert opinion and forensic analysis are Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy and gentlemen, is coming third a good second best, errrr, so to speak?

Eamo's opening salvo was to decry the whole occasion as a FIFA cash cow ('You're thinking of Nissan, Eamon') before Liam Brady took over. "As a test, Peter, for England, it's like doing the mocks after the Leaving...utterly pointless".

Other highlights pre-game included a lengthy Eamo ode to Marouane Fellaini over a montage of Axel Witsel; Liam's analysis of Jordan Henderson. "You've heard of the water-carrier, he's the slurry-carrier....he has the vision but not the technique to send the ball where he wants, but in fairness, it doesn't stop him trying"; and then Liam's final judgement on England: "They are like Tottenham without Eriksen, which means they're like Wigan".


They threw to commentary team "Alkinator and Kerrosene" with some predictions. "4-0 to Belgium," said Eamon.

Liam: 2-0.

Peter: To?

Liam: Nil.


Collins left during the first-half for "something at Mondello", with Liam Brady taking over as host. Having already appeared on ITV and Fox, Martin O'Neill dropped into Montrose for half-time. O'Neill heaped praise on England for passing the ball about and not really looking like scoring a "what do you call it when the ball goes in the net... oh, a goal. I haven't seen one in a while".

Other highlights included O'Neill's description of Raheem Sterling as "running like he holds a pair of maracas" and Eamo's assertion that Croatia "only have a hundred thousand people", ending in O'Neill's assertion that Ireland, in contrast, has a "young population".



Keith Andrews swung by for the post-game analysis having been delayed at a "fitting at Louis Copeland's". Keith deemed Harry Kane as "not even the best striker in Letterfrack", while Liam summed up England's tournament.

We've had great crack out of them but ultimately, for England, it was like being pursued by an asthmatic Groucho Marx impersonator: close but no cigar.

Andrews landed the job of chivving across the studio to RTE's strange thong-shaped touch screen for a bit of in-depth analysis.

Here Richie Sadlier and Kenny Cunningham made their appearances, with Richie "going into a dark room to contemplate the future of mankind".

A few things didn't really work - the caricature of Brian Kerr in a slot called Kerr's Malogen Corners has long since grown weary - and even the Dunphy parody grew old as the show burbled along. (Although an honourable exception should be made for "Lukaku has as much control over that ball as Roy Keane does over his mouth").

It ended in song, as the putative amigos sang "Mbappe" to Pharrell's "I'm happy", which led the whole thing to end on a bit of a bum note as Liam/Barry Murphy chided someone in the background for playing the wrong part of the song.

The show wasn't entirely perfect, but as ITV (Keane aside) spat bromides over footage of Gianni Infantino bowing in false gratitude to a half-empty stadium before Belgium had to look enthused for winning a game that meant nothing, it's clear that RTE just provided the most rigorous and accurate analysis of the tournament thus far.

Stray Observations

  • Over on ITV, Roy Keane and Ian Wright seemed to get along just fine. Keano again indulged in criticising the English team. Consider this 'analysis' of Belgium's first goal. "England gave a shocking goal away. Sloppy, lazy defending. Really lazy defending. When you look at Rose's defending on top of the centre-half's, he's never going to learn about the game. At 28 years of age...he's in trouble".
  • He also leavened it all with a bit of b****r. Gary Neville said he hoped at the start of each season to maybe be at fault for four goals across the year, Keane smiled and drily quipped "more like 24". Zing.
  • Apres Match rating: 10/10.



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