It was Duffer this and Shayzer that.
They were like two boys in the pub, sparking off each other, ribbing into each other and, at half-time, full time and all the way around this World Cup semi-final, they were just having a good time.
It was, by this writer’s estimation, the best night of RTE’s World Cup coverage so far.
Some would say that wouldn’t be too hard, but that’s for another day.
Duff and Given played for fifteen years together for this country and for four years with Newcastle and from the word go, from the minute RTE’s coverage of Argentina-Croatia started, you could see that these boys knew each other inside out.
“The easy question often in this cases,” Joanne begins the broadcast with, “is have we got the four best teams in the semi-finals. Is it more a case of, have we got the teams who know how to navigate tournament football most of all?”
“I thought you were going to say have we got the four best men on the sofa,” retorted Given.
Duff gave him a laugh. Brady gave him a smirk, followed by the most withering of looks. He was separating the two of them and there and then, you knew, he knew, everyone knew that, for him, this was going to be a long night.
Duff and Given are opposites in many ways and that’s what makes them such a perfect tv duo. Duff is the deep-thinker, he’s the man that, unblinded by the lights, brings you the more quirky pieces of analysis that you just love to hear.
He showed us, at the end of the game, a number of clips of Messi just literally sauntering around the field. One of the clips was almost unbelievable as, with Luka Modric on the ball less than five yards away from him, Messi didn’t even turn to look. He just had his head down in his own little world.
That’s what he’s doing these days. “Duffer says he stands around a bit,” responded Given.
And then Duffer hits him back with another one-liner. Brady reins them in. Then back to the serious stuff. It was the perfect mix.
‘How is it that Croatia, with a country smaller population than Ireland, can consistently get to World Cup finals,” asked Joanne early on.
“You should be asking Abbotstown, not me,” said Duff. “Well is that where the fault lies?” she pushes him. “Well it doesn’t lie with me, for starters.”
Back to the serious stuff again.
Given is almost child-like, like many of us, in his love of Lionel Messi. He’s head-over-heels but Duffer is able to give us a bit more. He name-checked the rabonas and the Cruyffs and all those skills on his way to stating that the best skill in football is when Lionel Messi drops that shoulder.
“My view is that the best trick in football, is a drop of the shoulder. You can jazz it up all you want with Rabonas and this and that, but Messi’s go-to trick, why he’s the best of all-time, is the drop of the shoulder. Pretending he’s going one way, going the other.
‘The Duffer special, that’s called’ replied Given.
“I don’t know about that,” he laughs.
They’re unbeatable pic.twitter.com/dngn9CEtS0
— Niall Mcintyre (@NiallMcintyre) December 14, 2022
But we’ll save the best ’til last. Given was in top form by this stage and as he analysed Julian Alvarez’ crazy first goal, he had Duff and Cantwell in stitches. It had all come from Croatian’s elaborate corner routine and speaking as a man who worked with Derby on their set-pieces this year, Given knew exactly how the Croatian set-piece coach would feel.
Like Homer Simpson disappearing into a hedge. Brady reached for his note-pad. And then the fun continued…
Top class punditry pic.twitter.com/qrUXDrgLhv
— Póg Mo Goal (@pogmogoal) December 13, 2022