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TV Wrap - Donal Óg draws in mention of the Brits as The Sunday Game finds itself in a culture war

‘The last remnants of British culture on these islands’ got the blame for criticism of the sweeper system in hurling.

Last night's Sunday Game.
Last night's Sunday Game.

IS THERE NO end to the Brits’ humiliation? 

At the end of a week in which they’ve become governed by their Kang to America’s Kodos, Donal Óg has gone and blamed them for the narrow minds of hurling.

On last night’s Sunday Game, he said that criticism of the rehearsed defensive styles of Davy Fitz and Derek McGrath – dressed up in charges of “disrespecting the traditions of the game” – is “part of the last remnants of British culture on these islands.”

On he went.

“The British, they founded a lot of games, but they struggled to accept and adapt to the wider influences in their games. What I mean is the long ball to John Bull, Jack Charlton-type spirit. I’m delighted the modern player has moved on.”

His words have been variously interpreted since, with one viewer tweeting that this was Donal Óg “blaming the Black and Tans for lads not liking the sweeper system.”

What this column believes Donal Óg was trying to say was those who don’t like to see change in hurling remind him of the benighted, 4-4-fackin’-2 merchants of English football, who spent decades looking out at the world deciding that all of these people mastering their game were, of course, doing it all wrong.

There’s plenty here to unpack.

Donal Óg’s was not an unreasonable point to make, as scandalised as many were by the mention of ‘British culture.’

This column does take issue, however, with the idea that there is any such thing as the “last remnants of British culture.”

Virtually anything any good in Ireland, either enduring or passed, has been influenced by British culture.

To take the specific examples in question – the GAA couldn’t exist as it does today without the British culture it defined itself against, while it is difficult to conceive of The Sunday Game in its current form without the prior example of Match of the Day and the BBC.

Nonetheless, last night’s edition was when the Sunday Game went fully postmodern.

Sunday Game panelist Derek McGrath criticised Sunday Game panelists for their ignorance of his style of play as Waterford manager, that “what would be espoused and pontificated from these seats I’m sitting in now looked like a public forum of self-indulgence.”

He then went on to make the fundamentally interesting point that, of the 60 players who played across the All-Ireland semi-finals, 56 went through third-level education and shared ideas and styles of play along the way.

Nonetheless, not everyone wanted to hear this stuff. Ken McGrath – a panelist on the live programme earlier that day – tweeted “Absolute nonsense, egos gone out of control.”

Ollie Moran tweeted that Donal Óg and Derek had “wasted ten minutes of The Sunday Game pontificating about hurling philosophies and ideologies. Joe Public would prefer if you just raved about the exhibition of skill and manliness that we saw today.”

Would they?

Much like the aforementioned British, The Sunday Game finds itself negotiating a culture war.

The show has been for decried over its reverance for hurling for years.

Hurling is easily born to evangelism – heck, the sport’s founding myth literally involved ramming the sport down a dog’s throat – and the Sunday Game has long-been criticised for being merely happy to spread the good news of the game.

Rather than pick faults in games or tell us why certain things had happened, a succession of panels were happy instead to largely bask in the afterglow of the event, the odd Ger Loughnane grenade excepted.

It was last year christened as the wholesome, unproblematic “game for the Gods” on RTÉ, despite the fact most religions have more Gods than the Liam MacCarthy has credible title contenders.

This year, the show has pivoted to match the more analytical coverage of Sky and podcasts like The GAA Hour, and evidently, not everyone is on board. 

It is impossible to satisfy everybody, so it will be interesting to see if the show sticks with its current line.

Saturday night’s broadcast from Croke Park hinted that it just might. Cyril Farrell, a mainstay of the rhapsodising panels of the past, ventured after Kilkenny’s win against Limerick that “maybe the standard in Munster isn’t as good as we think it is.”

Heresy is general all over hurling.

Welcome to the new normal.

- Originally published at 14.07

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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