Read those three little words again, those three dreaded little words. Sky Sports 1. Not RTÉ Two; Sky Sports 1. Meaning as follows. No Tom. No Conor. No Pope – no Popey, rather, seeing that this column isn't written by an Orange Lodge member. Above all, no George. Thus the sport-on-TV reviewer is left feeling rather like Hugh Grant at the beginning of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Bugger. Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger. Et cetera.
You will, dear reader, have your own opinion of George Hook. You may regard him as the man who put the gob into gobdaw, the loud into loudmouth (and the mouth too, come to think of it). But sport-on-TV reviewers love George because George writes these columns for us. You too can try it for yourself. Simply regurgitate everything the great man says, throw in a couple of comments from Brent and Conor just to make it look as though you've been listening to them, add water et voila!
So here we are for the biggest clash of Munster and Leinster at Croke Park since the magnetic attraction of Christy Ring used to draw them here in their thousands every Patrick's Day half a century ago, yet the man who draws them in their thousands to RTÉ's rugby coverage every springtime is neither to be seen nor heard. The king is o'er the water and we're left with Simon Lazenby in the McGurk role and a panel of Will Greenwood, Tyrone Howe and Paul Wallace.
The first indication that we're not in Kansas any more arrives at the end of Gillette Soccer Saturday when Sky flash up notice that "Leicester v Munster" is coming next. Sloppy and all as RTÉ are at times, not even they would do that.
The second indication comes when in the midst of a pre-match discussion about Felipe Contepomi and his suspect temperament, Wallace predicts that a bad start to the game will see the Argentinian "go down quicker than the Belgrano". Oh dear.
Lazenby, doubtless at the behest of the voice in his earpiece, jumps in immediately to apologise and is absolutely right to do so. On the basis we've all uttered things we've regretted two seconds later, it ill behoves anyone – especially a TV reviewer – to get too pompous about a would-be jokey comment a panellist makes on the spur of the moment.
So let's just say that this wasn't Paul Wallace's finest moment – not big and, more importantly, not funny either – and leave it at that. But hey, Paul: a little less of the racial stereotyping next time out, eh? Even if that nice Mr Murdoch who owns Sky would scarcely object? Gotcha!
The game kicks off and soon there's an interesting development. Leinster are hitting hard and hitting accurately. "The big turnover men are making the big turnovers," Stuart Barnes observes. The underdogs lead 3-0 after 15 minutes, lead 6-3 after 25 minutes and take what sports hacks of a previous generation liked to refer to as "a vice-like grip" with a Gordon D'Arcy try in the 31st minute – and all of this after Contepomi has departed injured and Cian Healy spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin. We're definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto.
The panel spend the interval praising Leinster's intensity. Can they keep it up? Yes, they can, as a certain gentleman of Offaly antecedents might say. Three minutes after the restart some Flatleyesque footwork from Luke Fitzgerald gives Leinster their second try in the corner under the Hogan Stand. "Paul Warwick is just decimated one-on-one by Luke the Lion," Miles Harrison swoons in the commentary box. Moments later Ronan O'Gara knocks on a simple pick-up. "It's unravelling – and Munster know it," Harrison announces.
Shortly after we see that the favourites have made 10 handling errors to their opponents' three, the mirror cracks beyond repair. O'Gara's pass to Paul O'Connell is intercepted by Brian O'Driscoll; cue an unopposed 70-metre run and touchdown. Harrison: "He's running for the posts! He could be running for the final!" Surely, Barnes muses, not even Munster can come back from this. No, they cannot.
The closing quarter is all cockles and mussels and blue flags. The build-up to the final will now give us a merciful and long overdue break from the endless self-mythologising of the Munster fans, the Greatest Supporters in the World. But we'd love to know what Mr Hook made of it all. Oh George, will ye no' come back again?
Thank God I do not have Sky Sports...I was invited by my neighbour to watch the match...and the Sky commentators were terrible..such banal comments and quite honestly they knew nothing about rugby...RTE are light years ahead ..indeed is Jim Neilly of BBC n.ireland.. I hope the GAA never sell out top Sky Sports.