Last night Ireland drew with World Cup Champions, Germany. Away from home. A team ranked 62nd in the world held the team ranked 1st. Take a deep breath, smile and let that sink in.
This morning’s papers, forums and water cooler conversations (do those still happen?), should be brimming with joy at last night’s heroics. Instead, we’re left talking once more about the ineptitude of the RTE Soccer panel. Cliches, negativity and nonsense were the keywords from Twitter last night. Fans of Irish football weren’t happy with RTE’s post-match analysis.
This isn’t the first time that a match has been soured by the inability of Dunphy and co. to provide coherent insights into the game. What is different now it seems is that a breaking point has been reached. People are beginning to switch off their TVs, papers are criticizing RTE and social media outlets have been unrepentant in their criticism of RTE.
In a remarkably negative analysis last night of what should have been a great moment in Irish football, Dunphy proceeded to bash Glenn Whelan’s performance, criticize the manager’s selection and end with an ominous prediction that,
“I’d worry that if we set up our team like [in the first 70 minutes] against Scotland again.”
The problem for many of us was that it was same analysis, different match. Dunphy’s negativity has become tired. Once a man heralded for his controversial views, people are now just fed up with him.
Football is meant to be enjoyable, Dunphy’s habit of negativity is well past its sell-by-date. Since the 1990s, Dunphy has built his career on controversial views. He fell out with Jack Charlton during the early 1990s for criticising Ireland’s style of play. He also gained notoriety worldwide a few years ago for his criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo and is often seen as an oddity by the foreign media.
Controversy and criticism don’t equate with insightfulness however. The veil of respectability around Dunphy has been lifted, and there’s nothing left underneath. A roundly negative dissection of Ireland’s performance by Dunphy was met with scorn and mockery by Irish fans on Twitter last night and this morning.
Funniest tweets go to those who demanded Eamon be given a Dairy Milk to cheer him up. Irish fans have broken free from Dunphy’s spell.
It wasn’t just Dunphy either who was victim to the fan’s wrath online. Johnny Giles, whom as a Leeds fan I’ll never say a bad word against, was criticized for an archaic reading of the game that ticked all the notable clichés about tactics, positioning and style of play. At one point Giles claimed Germany are no longer World Champs and that he doesn’t believe away fixtures necessitate a change in approach.
Similarly Liam Brady was attacked for failing to contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Giles and Brady have earned their stripes in football for their massive achievements on and off the field but they need to freshen their approach. Irrelevant anecdotes and sound bites are not the future of football punditry. In Giles’s defence, unlike Monsieur Dunphy, he had the wherewithal to eventually concede it was a good result and one that will set Ireland up nicely for qualification. Albeit it took some time for him to admit it.
The problem with the RTE panel at the moment is a complete lack of balance. Dunphy is given time on his soapbox to rant and rave, Liam Brady has taken to just agreeing with Eamon and presenter Darragh Maloney is seemingly there to make up the numbers. RTE needs to freshen things up sooner rather than later.
A cursory glance at Twitter during and after the game has shown the displeasure fans of Irish football now hold for what passes for analysis on the national broadcaster. Dunphy has come out this morning and defended his views of last night’s game but does anyone care? Dunphy has lost the ear of Ireland’s public and his co-workers aren’t held in much higher esteem.
It’s time to provide actual insights into the game. Drop the negativity and examine games on a case by case basis. RTE need to do something drastic, and fast.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.