It’s not that viewers wouldn’t have appreciated David Gillick’s chats with our Irish athletes in Munich because they were, on the whole, of the exceedingly uplifting kind, not least that beaut with Ciara Mageean. But some of us might have taken for granted the ability to ask questions that draw out the very best from interviewees rather than leaving them lost for words.
Not that you want to pick on anyone, but that Sky boxing lad? He already risked an upper cut from Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah on Saturday night when he spoke to him after he had beaten Anthony Joshua in the snappily titled “Rage on the Red Sea”.
“I know this fight was being broadcast in the Ukraine,” he said, the “the” the ultimate of no-nos. And then he completed the question by asking Oleksandr if he thought his compatriots would be “having a big party there tonight?” He did, honest.
Now, it could be just that the Sky man had missed the news and wasn’t aware that Ukraine isn’t in a partying mood this weather, them having other things on their mind, and which one of us sport-o-philes hasn’t been occasionally guilty of being oblivious to stuff in the alleged real world?
But that, to be honest, is all this couch saw of events in Saudi Arabia, preferring purer sporting contests like, dunno, Newcastle v Manchester City.
Besides we’d already gone 12 rounds with Chris Eubank and a pasta-maker on Celebrity Masterchef, so we’d had our pugilistic fill.
“Have you ever made pasta,” asked John Torode.
“Yes,” said Chris, “but it was ready-made.”
John didn’t know quite how to respond to that, Chris among the more unique amateur chefs he’s ever met, like when he asked him if he’d tasted his pesto before serving it. Chris hadn’t, but reassured John that “I can see the taste with my eyes”.
As for the pasta-maker, it wasn’t his greatest life challenge. “Once you’ve been smacked in the teeth by Nigel Benn, you’re quite used to fear,” he said, so trying to force his football-sized mixture through the pasta-maker in the hope that it would one day end up in a spaghetti-like form didn’t remotely daunt him.
“I’m dying, out of breath and feeling like I’m going to throw up,” he might have said after the ordeal, but instead that was Ciara Mageean’s take on her physical condition when she spoke to David after her silvery slice of loveliness. And anyone who has ever had the good fortune to come upon Ciara Mageean in their lives would have been punching the air with extreme exultation at the sight of her having one of her finer days.
And all any of us watching could think about was the joy the late Jerry Kiernan, who played such a big part on her development, would have taken from her performance, but she reassured us that he would have been watching from “the best seat in the house”.
All round it was a decidedly joyful European Championships for Ireland, not because there was an abundance of medals, more because of the ambition, confidence and promise of so many of the younger crew. Even the rustiest of old hearts would have been warmed by their progress and vows to, well, smash the future.
Even those just that little bit senior were eyeing bigger prizes. “You want a medal, it’s the only currency any of us speak,” said Sarah Lavin to Gillick after she finished fifth in the 100m hurdles final, having registered a personal best in the semis. “I want more, of course I do, that’s just who I am – the medal was so close tonight I could feel it.”
Mark English felt bronze after the 800m final, ahead of which Com Murphy drew on David Matthews’ experience of the distance.
Con: “You know all about the 800m and what’s ahead of Mark here?”
David: “Two laps.”
Two laps, no bother, medal in his pocket, this being the only time in sporting history that we had no problem with the BBC claiming one of our own as “English”.
The future? Reaching for the shades.