It’s been some week. On Wednesday night, the ball was handled more by Thierry Henry than the child-labourer who originally stitched it. His intervention was the culmination of a passage of play where the French, in addition to caressing the ball as if it was a beautiful woman, were offside and possibly fouling Richard Dunne. If they had committed any more offences they could have been served with an anti-social behaviour order. Cuisine De France has changed their name to ‘Look It’s Actually Made In Clondalkin’ in protest.

Giovanni Trappatoni was angry but he chose his words carefully, focussing instead on how proud he was of his players. Still, the match was a dignified end to a week which had begun badly for Irish football. On Saturday night France came to Dublin with their silly tight shirts and their better haircuts and symmetrical faces and made us feel a bit sad with their notions of passing the ball on the ground.

We were already deflated after reading, that morning, the thirty-fifth interview in which
Stephen Ireland, in Dubai at the time, reiterated how happy he is not to play international
football for his country. He also spoke about his unhappy experiences playing for the
Ireland in the past and hinted that the Irish set-up had a long-running bias against Cork.
The interview sparked a number of different reactions here in Cork. Some pointed out via the corners of their mouths ‘twas far away from Dubai he was reared’. Others said that the last thing we need is yet another Cork sportsman moaning about a conspiracy against Cork, that he was making us out to be the most paranoid county in Ireland; that, ok yes everybody is talking about us – but they’re talking about how paranoid we are.
But Stephen Ireland might have a point. If you read what he said about his perceived poor treatment at underage level there is one line that may go right to the heart of the Stephen Ireland conundrum. He said “I would get the train up to Dublin on my own”
Read that sentence again. He had to get the Cork-Dublin train on his own. What a traumatising experience that must have been for a sensitive young man. When Stephen was making his long lonely way to Dublin it was before we had the gleaming new blue white and green trains “from Northern Spain”. It was in the days of the old orange-and-black ones which lurched out of Kent station like giant killer tiger-worms. (albeit tiger-worms that were always late and stopped for an hour for no reason in a bog in North Tipperary).
Those were difficult times to be a railway passenger. You consulted the timetable to find out when the next train wasn’t. There were the incomprehensible on-board tannoy announcements. In a normal tannoy system, the sound of the inspector’s voice is picked up on a microphone and converted into an electrical current and passed to the speakers where it is converted back into sound waves. This relays, to the passengers in carriages, the words of the driver in roughly the same form as he uttered them.
In the tannoy of the old Cork-Dublin train, the words of the inspector were picked up by
a microphone. However from there they were banished to Hades, fought the triple-headed dog Cerberus, stopped off in the shop on the way back for twenty Rothmans before eventually being farted out of the speakers. The words were often so unintelligible that, by sheer coincidence, they made perfect sense in a completely language. On one occasion a Dutchman had to be restrained by fellow passengers because he thought the announcer was insulting his mother when in fact he was only saying that the next stop was Templemore.
The trains were also packed. Carriages leaving Dublin on Friday evenings could not have been more crowded if a panicked population was trying to flee the Khmer Rouge who were hauling intellectuals off to state farms to go snagging turnips.
Now there’s a train every hour and they are rarely full apart from when Cork have a big
game in Thurles or Croke Park (and the train is packed with the Khmer-To-Me Rouge)
The tannoy has been replaced with a voice-over that tells you …all..the…in..for…ma..shun….you..need..a..bout…….The journey can feel like spending two hours checking how much credit is left on your phone.
You drink extra liquid just to have a go off the toilets. We thought the loos on the old train were modern at the time. Who could forget the first time you used one? How do you flush the toilet? – oh wait there’s a button on the floor. How do you turn the tap –Another button on the floor. This was LIVING.
But the new toilets are like a futuristic boutique where you can buy the latest in toilet technology. How do you flush the toilet? Think of a waterfall How do you turn on the tap– tell it an anecdote. When you lock the door, the toilet thanks you for doing so. This final point presents perhaps the only trauma to the modern rail passenger. With the old toilets, closing and locking was the same action. Now once you close the door, you have to press a separate button to lock. People don’t always remember this. Which means that sometimes, someone outside doesn’t know that there is someone inside. Which means that someone might, for the rest of his life, carry around with him forever the mental image of a 20-stone…. I don’t want to talk about it…
It could have been worse. It could have been Thierry Henry using his left hand to control
the ball…

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