“Ireland’s ridiculous,” said the Manchester City midfielder. “This is the way it is for them – they can write about a good result for only a few days but they can write for weeks on end about a bad result.”
Whatever the validity of his reasons for apparently giving up on international football at an embarrassingly young age, this is one area where Ireland has it plain wrong.
Think about this. Apart from the FAI and the players themselves, which group of individuals profits most from Ireland doing well and qualifying for major tournaments? Well, the journalists of course. Let’s start with the simple matter of covering the event. When Ireland qualify, every newspaper and radio station must have somebody at the competition. When Ireland don’t, a lot of outlets will choose to save money and take wire copy. Which situation does the 23 year old from Cobh think the hacks would prefer?
There are other factors he hasn’t considered too. When Ireland make it to a finals, football writers benefit in a host of other ways. They get more calls from radio and television to go on and offer their views. For which they get paid token sums. Publishers start knocking on their doors with book proposals about the event. More money on the table. Suddenly, all manner of ancillary earning opportunities come their way.
Does Ireland really think these people enjoy watching the team fail rather than seriously upping their own incomes and amplifying their profiles? Does he really think they would prefer to miss out on the chance to spend a summer at, with all dues respect to the Olympics, the most glamorous sports event on the planet? Yup, they’d rather watch on television than be at the big dance themselves.
Beyond the monetary impact, there is also the simple matter of winning making the writer’s job easier. There is nothing worse than having to stand in front of an athlete who’s just lost a game and asking them mundane questions such as the classic: “How do you feel?” The denizens of the press box know that when the team wins the players (even the grumpy multi-millionaires that populate the Irish squad) will be up for chatting and more than helpful in giving the (dreadfully mundane) quotes about the minutiae of the victory. As somebody who’s sat in far more losing dressing-rooms than winning ones to this point in his career, something he should reflect upon one of these days, surely that point isn’t lost on Ireland.
Of course, we’ve been down this road before with Irish players. It’s not that long since Robbie Keane went on The Late Late Show to have a moan about the journalists putting players off coming over to Dublin for international matches. This was the most baseless, pathetic stuff and yet succeeded in deflecting attention away from the real issue – the Irish team were getting properly and justifiably criticized in the papers and on television because they were underperforming on a consistent basis during consecutive qualifying campaigns under Brian Kerr and then Steve Staunton.
The problem with the members of the Irish squad over the past ten or fifteen years (and Keane has been to the forefront of this particular movement ) is that they seem to think that any objective evaluation of the team’s flaws is just journalists having a go. It’s not having a go. It’s people doing their job. If the side plays badly, reporters are supposed to report that, regardless of the impact it might have on the egos involved.
And really, somebody who gets paid three million quid a year to kick a ball should be confident enough in their own abilities to be able to shrug off any adverse commentary by journalists. Especially journalists they don’t even respect in the first place.
The hilarious thing about Ireland’s comments though was that this must be the umpteenth time he has addressed his international career in the last few months. Why does he keep talking about it? If he’s done with it and genuinely over it, why keep answering questions about it?
“I wouldn’t have retired if I thought I’d have any regrets,” said Ireland in Abu Dhabi last weekend. “I only do things I’m 100 per cent certain of, and there is no way I’m going back. I’ll watch the games and I want the players to win, but they’ve done so well without me there’s not much point in me going back. I haven’t even thought twice about it. I’m happy with my young family and my main priority are them and my club.”
Haven’t we heard this before? How many times so far this year? Why doesn’t he tell any reporter who brings it up again that the situation hasn’t changed and leave it at that? For a fellow apparently hell-bent on never wearing a green shirt again, Ireland seems to think about it enough. That’s what any psychologist would deduce from his constant nattering about it whenever there’s a microphone in front of his face.
There’s something else here too. Rather than making ignorant comments about the motives of his fellow Irishmen who cover the national team, Ireland might be better served trying to rediscover his form of last season. That first touch which makes him the most gifted player at Eastlands (a fact annoyingly ignored by so many English commentators), and would have him classed as easily the most talented footballer in the Irish squad, hasn’t been quite as exquisite or eye-catching this past few months. A mischievous reporter with an eye for statistics might even point out he’s given far more interviews about the Ireland situation than he’s scored goals in the Premiership this campaign. Just saying of course.