A sporting Saturday.
You may recall “Harry and the Hendersons”, a 1987 film released here in the UK as “Bigfoot and the Hendersons”. I recall both titles but never saw the film or its TV spin-off. Last night England beat Ukraine in the quarter-final of the European Football Championship. The competition was due to take place last year and is still going by the name “Euro 2020”. The goals in England’s 4-0 victory came from Jordan Henderson (his first international goal, in his 62nd appearance), Harry Kane (2) and Harry Maguire. Or, if you prefer, Henderson and the Harrys.
The game went about as well as a football match can at this stage of a competition. England scored early in the first half (Kane), again early in the second half (Maguire) and within 20 minutes had scored twice more (Kane again, and then Henderson). None of the things that could have gone wrong went wrong: there were no bookings, no injuries, no careless goals conceded. England kept a clean sheet for the fifth match in a row, a feat that no team has managed in Euros history. In the last 25 minutes, with the game won, manager Gareth Southgate was able to replace midfielders Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips. Both players had received yellow cards earlier in the competition and if either of them had been booked yesterday they would have been out of the semi-final.
The game brought to mind England’s quarter-final in the World Cup three years ago, a 2-0 win against Sweden (which also featured a headed goal by Harry Maguire). I did not feel tense about the result at any point. It’s just as well. I had spent yesterday afternoon watching the Leinster Hurling semi-final from Croke Park, Kilkenny against Wexford. As usual I was supporting Kilkenny, the county where my father was born. The game finished level and went to extra-time. Wexford scored a penalty early in extra-time to go 3 points clear, the Kilkenny keeper was “sin-binned” for 10 minutes and it looked like the game was up. But in the second period of extra-time Kilkenny stormed back to win by 8 points (2-37 to 2-29). In previous seasons Championship games like this would have gone to a replay, which I would have preferred.
When the hurling was over I needed to get away from live sport for a while to recover, so I didn’t watch any of the Munster semi-final (Limerick beat Cork) or the other Euro quarter-final (Denmark beat Czech Republic 2-1). And then Henderson and the Harrys, and the rest of the team, ensured that we had a comfortable evening’s viewing. Maybe, as the song says, football’s coming home, and for the record Kilkenny play Dublin in the Leinster Hurling final in two weeks’ time.