Have they ever heard of the Irish football team in Italy? They have indeed. One of the Italian newspapers did a survey recently and they had us ranked down at the very bottom of the European League with countries like Malta, Luxemburg and Finland. On what basis are these rankings made? On the results we've had over the past while. And results like Ireland getting beaten five-nil by New Zealand. They send out a team comprised of League of Ireland players to New Zealand and make out that it's the full Irish team. Then they send us off with a squad with just three first team players.
"They know what they want from their players - or they did when I played against them - and they pick men to do a specific job. They bank on experience, no matter how far back they have to go to get it, and they have been proved right. They work on the principle that once a player has established himself as a Springbok or All Black of genuine test class, then he will have that ability long after most people are prepared to write him off. And they are right. There is no substitute for experience.
Bill McBride and Jim Telfer have laid down a number of conditions that they say will be applied to the choice of captain of the British Lions team, which they will manage and coach in New Zealand in two months' time.
One hardly dare say it, one hardly dare think it even, but it's staring us right between the goalposts. With four games played in the international championship, it would seem that, as in last season, there is no outstanding side in the series. And you have to have a very short memory not to realise what that assessment means in a contest of handicappers, Ireland remain the most effective match winning side in the championship!!
The longer I live in Ireland the more inclined I am to take issue with the observation about patriotism and scoundrels: patriotism is not the last refuge of the scoundrel it's the first. The same green-draped bolt-hole accommodates, as a first resort, bigots, crooks, weasel politicians and various other "popular" figures. Only property developers, and members of the Donnybrook Set, and Sunday World's splendid team of writers seem immune, and therefore refreshingly honest.
"The fans went away happy," is a well-worn catch-all phrase often employed by the hackery to describe an eventful sporting occasion. That, in a nutshell (another favourite), was the critical reaction to the recent European Championship match against Spain. A critic without a newspaper to write in, I walked away from Lansdowne that evening far from happy. Having listened to the boys in the press box immediately after this "3-3 thriller" I knew that another major stroke was about to be pulled on the soccer-loving public.
The game against Spain was the 10th competitive international under Eoin Hand's managership. The time has come to put the question: just how good exactly are the Republic of Ireland team? There has been a tendency to analyse our achievements too much in our own terms. That way a distorted picture has been built up so that Ireland are often over-praised when they win and over-criticised when they lose.
Jim Telfer's assertion on television that he felt that the British Lions would need big forwards and big men in midfield for the 1983 tour of New Zealand suggests that he, as coach, and Bill McBride, as manager, have already formulated their policy for the selection of the team. The only area of the pack where size could be a matter of choice is in the back row, and the idea that you need large lumps at loose forward in the Land of the Long White Cloud is familiar enough.
Kevin Cashman recalls some of the strokes pulled in the greyhound racing game. And some of the plans that came unstuck.
Ireland's game against Spain (Nov. 17) has become the crucial test. Both the side's prospects of qualifying for the finals of the competition and manager Eoin Hand's ability to get the shape, blend and organisation of his side right depend on this game. Manifestly things were not right either against Holland or against Iceland.