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Weekend TV Review: How RTE's Coverage Made A Superb Saturday So Much Better

Weekend TV Review: How RTE's Coverage Made A Superb Saturday So Much Better
By Gavin Cooney Updated

This column is as aware as anyone that the world is teetering on collapse following last week's election of a moron to the highest office in what they call the Free World, which is seemingly a band of nations who are not united under a footballing governing body.

Trump's promotion to Chief Executive of America, Inc. has been met largely by dumb disbelief. How could millions of people vote for a man whose tiny hands were so superbly mocked by John Oliver in those Youtube clips I watched?

A wise woman once said that ridicule is the only honourable weapon we have left, but what to do when ridiculousness itself ends up with weapons?

Those with a decent level of humanity still involved in politics will seethe at the following suggestion, but we're now at the stage where it may be preferable to ignore the whole bloody thing.

This, in the long run, would admittedly achieve nothing, but its a pretty coherent policy right about now.

Thankfully, last Saturday gave us events of such towering unimportance that they simply could not be ignored: back-to-back Ireland games on a Saturday night.

And RTE, to their credit, delivered. With the world in such baleful flux, RTE gave us a beautiful tonic of familiarity. Liam and Eamon were on the panel, along with Duffer, who is filling the John Giles role with aplomb. Even the changes have not been radical: Duff has perfected Giles' sage lean forward with furrowed brow.

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Dunphy and Brady are often fairly decried for their inability to say anything new, but the usual 45-minute metamorphosis from 'we'll take a point' to the half-time to 'these actually aren't any good' felt oddly comfortable; that regardless of what happens in the world, some universal truths remain. Along with death and taxes stands RTE's half-time "No Great Shakes" declaration. Hell, Brady said it twice!

 

On commentary, George and Jim set about their usual infectious routine.

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George began by giving us all some useless information about which he is passionate. Before the Moldova game he told us that the referee's sister is a World Champion Ballroom dancer, and in Vienna, a break in play early on led to a long exposition as to why Austria's scoreboard abbreviation is AUT rather than AUS; a microcosm of football's selling point of frivolity.

After that, their double-act played out along similar lines. Jim picked a theme from the first-half, frequently mentioned it, and George backed him up by doubling down on it during his commentary. This week, Jim took aim at those pesky Austrians going down too easily, while at the same time tackling the Irish with excessive force. George loyally accentuated such failings of character when he was speaking. Theirs may be the best commentary partnership in football.

Ireland took the lead with a goal of incongrous beauty, but it all began with Kevin Wimmer throwing himself to ground too easily. Hey, Jim called it.

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With the world still in shock at not predicting the rise of Trump, they could learn a thing or two from the Irish football fan: we perceive crisis unlike any other: the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is to sit back on a one-goal lead.

In the end, Ireland faced less an Austrian onslaught than our own anxious presumption of one, maybe in the pursuit of familiarity, we had to embellish the threat of the opposition.

George tempted fate with his usual innocence; he is seemingly untainted by previous failures to protect leads. He seems to reside in a world where Danger Never Was, and given the world the rest of us are currently living in, it doesn't sound too bad.

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In the end, we were a Good Night Vienna pun and an explanation of the away goals rule away from what a reputable Irish sports website would call Peak George.

While much of RTE's coverage was wonderfully familiar, there were some peculiar aspects: notably a win away from home against a major nation, and the boundless optimism of Eamon Dunphy. A reminder that we live in strange times.

What followed next was the rugby game against Canada: a game of such splendid one-sidededness that it would remind us all that we are much better at an international sport than a country much bigger than us.

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It played out as expected, bar a Canadian flurry to draw the game at 14-14. Coverage-wise, much was the same: from Brent Pope's sheer satisfaction with Ireland winning at rugby to viewers' universal marvel at Shane Horgan's determination to extinguish the lingering memories of previous RTE pundits by squeezing as many technical terms into a breath as possible. It's impressive. Perhaps the most radical aspect of the rugby coverage was Eddie O'Sullivan's manspreading.

After the necessary stress of Vienna, Ireland coasted to victory, with the game delivering its primary purpose of adding fuel to midweek arguments about who should play against New Zealand.

Above all, however, it gave us all something to talk about that night, other than the world wending back towards the dark days from which we thought we were out of.

Last Saturday night, we knew that Ireland had won at both the football and the rugby, and for one night only. we didn't know about much else.

Sometimes, ignorance is a superior kind of knowledge.

 

A real 'Where Were You?' moment 

This week in TV Scheduling 

In terms of TV shows we weren't expecting to see on Saturday afternoon, Bernard Dunne's Mythical Heroes was not one of them.

See Also: Weekend TV Review: Ireland's Win In Chicago Was Historic, What A Pity So Few People Could Watch It 

 

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