A bit of confusion: Alou Diarra

The evening starts badly. Graeme Souness is delayed as a result of what Bill O'Herlihy describes as "airport chaos" in London and instantly the panel's three-man midfield has been reduced to two. This is not auspicious.

Sure, John Giles, the Makelele of Montrose, will do his usual composed holding role while Eamon Dunphy, also as usual, will run around like Gennaro Gattuso on Lucozade, biting every ankle that moves. But who's going to bring the all-important x-factor to the proceedings? Jedward?

The upbeat news is that Souness may not be needed because there appears to be disharmony in the opposition ranks. Tony O'Donoghue, citing a "very good source", brings us news of an alleged row between Raymond Domenech and Thierry Henry earlier in the day which culminated in Henry throwing the toys out of the pram.

Dunphy nods knowingly, having also heard about the row from his mole in the French camp, though whether it's the same source as Tony's or not is a topic he leaves hanging in the air. Kick-off is still 45 minutes away but already Eamon is in attack-dog mode and getting stuck into the visitors.

Even if their strike force contains Henry and Anelka, he "wouldn't be terrified of that team"; William Gallas is "irresponsible and temperamental" (you can roll the clip of his hissy fit at Birmingham City there, Colette); and Domenech is "not even respected in his own house. I live half the year in France. This guy is a joke!"

That's as maybe, but Dunphy would sound slightly more authoritative if he weren't busy mixing up his Diarras. Alou, who's partnering Lassana in midfield tonight, plays for Bordeaux; Mohammed, who like Lassana plays for Real, plays for Mali. These Diarras all look the same, eh? A little less time betting on the chevaux at Deauville and a little more time in front of the telly watching French football next time you're over there, Eamon, s'il vous plait.

On the basis that one can't have overmuch confidence in a team containing Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews, the panel try to make the nation feel better by picking holes in France, to the extent that Billo goes so far as to cast a sniffy eye over their warm-up. Giles isn't having any of it. "How do you know whether they're focused or not? They're just doing their warm-up." Billo draws in his horns. "So my question is complete nonsense?" Yes, Giles responds. Touché.

The first quarter might have been scripted by a certain noted Franco-Irishman. Nothing happens. Then a series of chances fall at either end, with Gignac and Henry going close for the visitors and Liam Lawrence denied for Ireland. "Half-chances," Souness – who's finally made it to Croke Park – terms them at the interval. There's still no x-factor at work there for the hosts, but Giles deems their attitude to be superior and Dunphy declares that France aren't up for it. "The key is not in the engine."

It is when the sides resume. It is and the French turn it. They turn the screw too. Eighteen minutes remain when they work the room to stitch a couple of passes together in the heart of the opposition half and Anelka's shot is deflected in off St Ledger. What the next day's papers will describe as "a crucial away goal" has been conceded and suddenly the sky has fallen in.