Belfast Telegraph

Forget the Russians, coach Dana is coming

Typically depressing scenes, menacingly ominous totalitarian music and images of people eating tractors — it can mean only one thing, the Russians are coming.

And indeed they were, to Rotorua, as RTE dug deep into the big book of stereotypes to greet us all at the crack of dawn on Sunday for Ireland’s next pointless assignment at the World Cup.

“A splendid good morning, it’s your early morning breakfast call,” said Tom McGurk, but if you were lying at your stretch in a hotel bed and peered out from under the duvet to find George Hook, Brett Pope and Conor O’Shea staring back at you, you would be on to the manager in a flash.

Mind you, I was more surprised given the treatment the Russians were given that we didn’t cut away to Declan Kidney dressed as a leprechaun, stroking his shillelagh and screaming ‘top of the morning to ye’.

Things have moved on. Russia is no longer the CCCP, indeed according to their badge they are now ‘POCCHR’ only with the ‘R’ turned the other way round just to confuse everyone.

I could be mistaken, of course, and perhaps someone from BBC NI’s legendary caption department is off on secondment with RTE, but if all else fails, we can send in George.

Tom took great delight in lumbering him with the task of talking about the opposition with a collection of names drawn at random from a Scrabble bag.

“George, you’ve been up since four practising your Russian,” he sniggered, as George proceeded to talk about a man named Byrnes. That’s cheating, he’s an Aussie who once bought a TaTu record so he qualifies.

“The one of great interest to us is Vasily Artemiev, apart from the fact that his name is easy to pronounce,” he continued, letting the moggy escape from the bag.

It turns out Vasily hailed from Blackrock College but couldn’t play for Ireland as his parents hadn’t lived in Dublin as Rotorua boy Isaac Boss hid behind a post in case he was rumbled.

“I think Gresev at No.8 is interesting because I can pronounce him as well,” added George who by now realised that the game was up and blinded us with rugby science instead: “I think what we’re looking for here is we have to score tries.”

And they did.

Lots of them although the first one was confusing as Hugh Cahill’s commentary was five seconds behind the pictures and as the players stood about doing nothing the next thing we knew Fergus McFadden had scored.

Eventually the caption writer, still working out how to get the ‘R’ back round the right way put up an ‘apologies for problems with the commentary’ notice. Surely ITV should be doing the same with Phil Vickery?

The scores kept on coming, Kidney so bored that he started making substitutions early on, and I’m sure Willie John McBride came on, but they weren’t the only stars from that era to make an appearance this week.

RTE are nothing if not revolutionary as the return of their Celebrity Bainisteoir showed. That is bainisteoir in the gaelic managerial sense, not an uppity banister that has appeared on a reality TV show.

That would be something wooden and awkward with no discernible function, or Stacey Solomon as it’s better known. No, we were talking international global recording artists here — Dana, in charge of a team from Derry against a side managed by some wee woman off RTE, and it was all very bizarre.

But with a coaching policy based on all kinds of everything it was only natural that Dana’s boys won the day to book a place in the next round, only for those plans to be thrown into chaos as she announced she wanted to be the Irish President.

I was waiting for ‘and next week Martin McGuinness takes over at Linfield,’ but sadly that never happened.

Too far-fetched? Daniel O’Donnell’s wife is taking over instead.

Belfast Telegraph

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