Roy Keane had to stick his oar into the great Paris debate this week and good luck to him -- as a former Irish captain he’s as entitled to his opinion as anyone, and more so than a lot of people.
Now before you fall off your chair with that opening sentence, let me tell you that I agree with a lot of what Roy had to say about the 1-1 draw in France on Wednesday of last week that will never be forgotten, and for so many reasons.
Yes, Ireland should have had the game won long before Thierry Henry blemished one of the most marketable reputations in world sport and turned himself into nothing more than a fraud and a cheat.
Yes, Paul McShane and Shay Given have a case to answer as to why they didn’t play the whistle when Henry had just used his hand not once but twice before crossing for William Gallas to drive a nail through our hearts with his 103rd minute goal.
Yes, there are no guaranatees that Ireland would still have made it to the World Cup finals if the Swedish oaf of a referee had done the right thing and ruled that Gallas goal out.
And yes, Ireland did get a 72nd minute penalty when they were one nil down at home to Georgia last February, and that was one of the worst decisions I have ever witnessed in all my years following Ireland, first as a fan and then as a fan with a typewriter as Eamonn Dunphy likes to call us.
And no, the FAI didn’t offer Georgia a replay, nor did they offer them any time when it was apparent that Tblisi couldn’t host our opening game in the World Cup qualifiers all of 14 months ago.
So Roy talked a lot of sense last Friday when he used an Ipswich Town press conference to dissect the Paris game that ended the World Cup dream for the Green Army, but he was also wrong on more than one footing.
He was wrong to have a go at the FAI and chief executive John Delaney, wrong to use Paris as the excuse to go back to something that happened more than seven years ago in Saipan and something we all need to move on from now more than ever.
And he was wrong to re-open old wounds at a time when the country was still coming to terms with the gaping new wound inflicted on us by the French thieves who stole our South African dream with their bare hands, or Thierry Henry’s bare hand to be precise.
Keane completely misjudged the mood of the nation when he hit gale force 10 on the press conference scale last Friday morning.
Instead of offering a considered opinion into the most blatant handball in the history of world football and the most expensive in the history of Irish football, he came across as bitter and twisted and out of tune with the country he left behind many years ago.
That is not to dilute many of the arguments he presented to the television cameras in that incredible interview last Friday morning, one which is well worth a look at on YouTube before this week is any older.
What’s unfortunate is that Keane didn’t check the feelings back home before he let rip at the FAI again, not that letting rip at officialdom has ever been an issue in his book.
If Roy had done an ET on it and phoned home he would have discovered that the FAI’s hurt and sense of injustice pales into insignificance next to the pain inflicted on the very fans who once followed him around the world in a green shirt, most of whom adored the ground he walked upon.
Those fans, the people who paid good money to get to Paris and even more money once they got to the godforsaken French capital, were the real losers last Wednesday night.
As was any notion that top class professional football is a bastion for honesty, integrity and the fair play mantra so beloved of those fools in FIFA whose silence has been deafening all week.
We didn’t just lose a football match on aggregate in the Stade de France last week, we lost our innocence. The Irish football family lost our faith in humanity.
We lost confidence in the human race to act with good grace and better manners.
Henry is a cheat and a fraud, and his commercial relationships with the likes of Gillette and Renault and Playstation and anyone else who crosses his palm with silver are now an insult to all right thinking consumers.
Henry has tried to act the big boy since he handled that offside free kick not once but twice some three minutes from the end of the first-half of extra-time in Paris.
He huddled up to Richard Dunne after the match and almost apologized as he admitted to his offense. Luckily for him I’d say Dunne was so shell shocked by the crass act and its consequences that he didn’t knock Henry out.
Then the French captain tried to offer Ireland a replay on Friday -- almost immediately after FIFA and the French Football Federation had ruled any such replay impossible.
That was big of him but worse was to follow when, on Saturday and then again on Sunday, he tried to present himself as a victim in all of this and wondered aloud why nobody was rushing to his defense!
I’ll tell you why Thierry -- because you are the lowest of the low, you are a cheat and a thief and you deserve to rot in World Cup hell in South Africa next summer when we are stuck in our living rooms with a live television picture for company.
It hurts me as an Arsenal fan since the age of seven to say that, to state that this one time hero in my family home is no longer worth the spit in the corner of my mouth.
He has claimed, incredibly, that the double handball was an instinctive act in Paris. Rubbish. No soccer player would instinctively throw his hand out at a ball traveling at that sort of pace and that close to the endline -- even GAA players would think twice about it.
Henry cheated last Wednesday night and France profited. For that they should all hang their heads in shame.
They will go to the World Cup finals next summer. For all the FAI’s efforts there was never going to be a replay, there was never going to be a second chance for an Irish team that died with their boots on in the Stade de France.
Of course we would have qualified automatically for the World Cup finals if Ireland had played with the same heart, determination and freedom against Italy and Bulgaria in the qualifiers.
And yes, as Roy himself suggested, the game should have been over if they had played like that in the first leg in Dublin or if Robbie, Duffer or John O’Shea had buried the chances that came their way in normal time in the second leg.
But they are all maybes. The only definite we can deal with right now is the fact that Henry cheated in the build-up to the French goal that proved decisive last week.
No claims, no cribs and no complaints can ever change that basic fact. Henry deliberately handled the ball and France made it to the World Cup finals as a result.
Arguing what might have been or pointing out the inefficiencies of the FAI or the Irish players is irrelevant.
They didn’t handle that ball. They didn’t cheat their way into the World Cup finals.
So if Henry is as remorseful as he would have us believe then he should retire from international football -- as he has since claimed he felt like doing.
He should deny himself the World Cup experience next June, just as he denied us the last lingering hope of a flight to South Africa.
And if those morons in FIFA really want to preach from the altar of fair play, then they should ban him for life as well from all football, club or country.
Maybe then the pain that is still seeping through my bones almost a week after Paris will start to subside – but I doubt it.
HEROES OF THE WEEK
The Ireland players and the Irish fans made it a very special night at the Stade de France last week. They deserved so much better on and off the pitch.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
Thierry Henry. Enough said.
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