Friday, 30 March 2012



European Bank Bondholder Bailout League, penultimate round, Frankfurt.

ECB 19-39 Ireland 0-1

There were extraordinary scenes at the end of this penultimate round of the European Bank Bondholder Bailout League in Dublin yesterday. Losing heavily, totally outplayed and outmuscled, the Irish team briefly left the stadium to play a game among themselves on an adjoining field and in the safety of that environment scored a few uncontested points. They then returned to the main playing area and before a bemused audience and despite the final scoreline, the captain of the Irish team, Michael Noonan, flanked by player/manager Enda Kenny, claimed victory for his side.

Right from the throw-in the ECB were in control of this game. Ireland's cause certainly wasn't helped by the fact that in a warm-up game at home against their own bankers Ireland had already suffered grievous losses and thus were already badly bruised when they first lined out against the ECB. It didn’t help Ireland’s cause either that their starting line-up featured a number of players in pivotal positions who had no previous experience of playing at this level – Brian Cowan and Brian Lenihan, for example, centre-back and centre-forward respectively, were just getting to know the basic skills and rules of the game and of their positions.

Helped by what could be termed an own-goal by Irishman Patrick Honahan (he's a member of the ECB panel but also claims loyalty to Ireland) the ECB took a commanding early lead and at the end of the first quarter had already streaked ahead, no threat whatever from a very feeble Irish attack which simply didn't seem to know how to use its early good possession.

Sad to report too, there was also much foul play from the ECB. It wasn’t enough that they had far more skill than the novice Irish, they also used their considerable muscle to intimidate and bully their weaker opponents. The Irish appealed to the officials for fair play but received short shrift – in fact far from adopting an objective and neutral stance, referee Merkel and her assistant Sarkozy constantly berated the Irish players, accused them of feigning injury and deliberately slowing up the game.

At half-time Ireland was in real trouble, but – as at the full-time whistle – we were now to witness an extraordinary scene.

Among the Irish supporters in the stands and even in the Irish dug-out itself, right through the first half there had been growing exasperation at the inept display by those on the pitch. Most vocal of all were the aforementioned Enda Kenny, the longest-serving member of the Irish panel, and Eamon Gilmore, himself a former starter. “Ye’re a disgrace to Ireland,” shouted Enda; “Ye’re betraying the jersey!” chorused Eamon; “Jaysus lads, let me at ‘em,” pleaded one of the young guns, Leo ‘The Lion’ Varadkar, “I’ll show ‘em – not another inch would they get from me!”

Then it happpened – with the approval of the ECB and in an unprecedented move, the whole of the Irish team was substituted and an entirely new side, led by Enda Kenny, took to the field. Even before he took up his new position however the signs for the Irish were bad as Enda was heard to mutter – “Christ Eamon, would you look at the size of these fellas! They’re a lot bigger in here than they looked from the sidelines – I think we’re in trouble!”

It was of course premature capitulation, an ongoing problem with this Irish team, their courage drained before a ball was struck. Thus it was that the second half brought no relief for the ranks of Irish supporters, now suffering silently on the banks. There was an occasional defiant shout – ‘Up Ballyhea!’ was heard from one small corner – but that was it. The ECB piled on the pressure, the scores mounted. Ireland did manage to sneak a point (Michael Noonan claiming the credit) when a streaker – said later to be Greek – distracted the ECB side momentarily, but soon it was back to business as usual, the Irish crushed under the ECB onslaught.

Then came those final minutes and that bit of light relief for those who had been observing the spectacle, Kenny and his team claiming victory from the carnage. The medical staff have put it down to concussion from all the heavy blows suffered during the game.

Scorers for ECB: So many scores and scorers it was impossible to keep track, but Jean Claude Trichet and Mario Draghi both figured prominently among the scorers, as did Hermann Van Rompuy, on loan from the EU.

Scorers for Ireland: M Noonan 0-1.

ECB: Currently captained by Draghi but prefer to remain anonymous.

Ireland: B Cowan, M Coughlan, B Lenihan, M Harney, D Ahern, N Dempsey, M Martin, E O Cuiv, M Hanafin, J Gormley, E Ryan, B Smith, B O'Keeffe.
Subs (all at half-time): E Kenny, E Gilmore, M Noonan, R Quinn, B Howlin, R Bruton, J Burton, J Deenihan, P Rabbitte, P Hogan, A Shatter, S Coveney, F Fitzgerald, J Reilly, L Varadkar.

Referee: A Merkel
Assistant Referee: N Sarkozy.