Extraordinary eight days for Irish football
Irish football never fails to deliver a concoction of emotions, but still carries the ability to captivate a nation. From the five major tournaments since 1988, the win over Germany two years ago, managerial searches and even oddities such as the 2007 debacle surrounding the mortality, or otherwise, of Stephen Ireland’s grannies, football can stop the clock.
Arguably, the last eight days have delivered a blitz of news verging on the drama attached to Roy Keane’s walkout in Saipan 16 years ago. Ironically, Mick Mccarthy is involved in both. Here we chart the chronology of an extraordinary eight days in Irish football. Sunday, November 18:
To the backdrop of echoes in the sports hall at the Aarhus Stadium that doubled as a press conference room, a tetchy Martin O’neill talks of the team and himself putting a forgettable year behind them. Unbeknown to him, elsewhere in the Danish city, John Delaney is assembling his board to ratify the decision to sack him, irrespective of the result against the Danes. O’neill cuts off a reporter’s three attempts to ask captain Séamus Coleman a routine question about how to improve on the drab performance of three days earlier against Northern Ireland. He also appeared less than enthused by the rugby’s team heroic win over the All-blacks 24 hours earlier. “They’re an Allireland team, aren’t they?” he said.
Monday, November 19: Matchday. Hours before kick-off, chants centring on the removal of FAI chief executive John Delaney boom from the Tír na nóg, an Irish pub where the last of the hardy Irish souls, travel- ling for a dead rubber, congregate.
However, it will be the dressing room, not the boardroom, where there will be a new face. Ireland toil to a 0-0 draw, the post sparing them another defeat. No shots efforts on goal are recorded over the 90 minutes by Ireland.
Tuesday, November 20: Despite indicating during his post-match press briefing with newspaper journalists that a chat would ensue with Delaney, O’neill kept to the “business as usual”. By 11pm that night, he was on the lookout for new business, as Delaney and FAI Secretary Michael Cody told him the game was up. What had started five years earlier in the plush surrounds of the Grosvenor Hotel was ended in the same city of London. A compensation package for all the staff, replete with confidentiality clauses, is thrashed out.
Wednesday, November, 21: Just past 10.30am, an FAI press release confirms the axe has fallen, declaring it on the basis of mutual consent. O’neill’s historical feats are lauded in the bulletin; the reasons for his exit are excluded.