1. You are Alf, Bill
Post-Romania 1990. George has done his bit and we return to Bill in the studio who is wearing a hat with hands that clap when you pull the string. It’s the first metaphorical plastic hammer. Anyone wondering if Bobby is going to tell Flathead about her pregnancy is soon disappointed when Billo tells us “Alf has been deferred and Home Away (sic) has been deferred.” Eamo cackles “You are Alf, Bill” before attempting to shrug off his public enemy number one status by insisting “We think it’s bloody great.”
2. Liam Nolan hands over to Billo
This may well have been a dream. But during World Cup ’86, we are fairly certain RTE employed a pre-anchor. Or MC, if you will. Liam Nolan was the man who introduced the show – certainly the final – before handing over to Billo to begin tackling Dunphy about Maradona’s greatness. Perhaps union rules insisted on clear demarcation of powers, but as far as we recall Nolan was not allowed to interject with his own views at any point. Clearly bemused by the whole thing, Billo could be seen winding his watch at one point, oblivious to the attentions of the camera.
3. Eamo throws the pen
Back to 1990 and the reason for Eamo’s public enemy status. The rant after Egypt of course, the 0-0 bore draw that was “embarrassing and shameful” and a disgrace to all the “great players” which didn’t on this occasion include Johnny Murtagh and Aidan O’Brien and John Ox, but did include Tommy Eglington, this guy beside me, David O’Leary, Ronnie Whelan and a host of real people, real football people.
4. Jimmy and George share the mic
Another union matter or the ceremonial changing of the guard? As far as we recall, Jimmy Magee and George Hamilton shared commentating duties on the 1986 final, possibly the tournament when George first threatened to take over from Jimmy as the RTE number one. Or maybe Montrose couldn’t rustle up a decent co-commentator – 24 years on, when you have Trevor Steven getting the Big Cup final, maybe they should try another final joust between the big two.
5. Different class… different classsss
Jimmy’s less-is-more take on Maradona’s second against England in ’86 surpasses even Barry Davies’ bewildered and slightly begrudging “You have to say that’s magnificent.”
6. Dermot Morgan does Eamo
Avant Match, if you like. RTE’s fine tradition of not taking the third-place playoff all that seriously began in ’86 when Dermot Morgan appeared as Eamo on the panel querying the greatness of all and sundry. Unfortunately, Eamo didn’t take it too well, perhaps smarting after Diego had done what Platini managed in Euro 84, make a mockery of Eamo’s insistence that neither was a “great player.” He failed to show for the final.
7. A nation holds its breath
George being George, nobody would have been surprised if he had shouted “Yes, we’re there,” before Dave O’Leary had even made it as far as the edge of the area – before mustering a stunned “oh, danger here” as the ball sailed out of the Luigi Ferraris. But no, instead George captured the moment beautifully in his finest commentary hour.
8. AprÃ¨s Match – Tommy Gorman and Eamo
RTE’s 2002 coverage feels like one long quarrel about Saipan but there were a few moments of light relief. The first being Eamo’s tremendous performance for Russia’s second game, when he arrived clearly the worst for wear, railed at Peter Collins pre-match before dismissing clips of the Russians’ winning goals against Tunisia. “These aren’t the incidents that win and lose games, these are false.” Sadly, he failed to reappear for the second half.
In one of AprÃ¨s Match’s best sketches, the lads recreated Tommie Gorman’s famous “think of the children” Roy Keane interview/plea with Dunphy in the Keano role.
9. The Joe Duffy homecoming
Where do you start? The moment in 2002 when Irish footballers told themselves they must never qualify for a World Cup again. Go here for a full description of the horror. Gilesy couldn’t have put it better at the end. “You’re lucky Joe Duffy wasn’t interviewing you in 1994, Ray.”
10. Ray and Shay suss out Japan
Whoever in RTE had the idea of sending Ray Treacy and Shay Healy on a pre-tournament mission to check out Ireland’s facilities in Japan and South Korea should surely have been seconded to become the station’s Head of Comedy. Sadly, Ray and Shay didn’t manage a stopover to check out the Saipan training pitches but they did assure us that the players would be staying in the lap of luxury, insisting that every room would have a “colour television.”
Other magic moments that have just come to mind now we’ve finished the ten and can’t be bothered changing them include; George and “the man with the yellow hat that exists nowhere in the firmament of international football”, Eamo using his magic marker to chart the trajectory of Frank Rijkaard’s spit at Rudi Voller, Jimmy Magee and Horst Hrubesch – “the man they call the monster” and, naturally the endless debates each tournament about the decline in international football.
What are your favourite RTE moments?