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'There you are then, I'm a hypocrite' - Brolly explains move to eir Sport

The GAA pundit has reneged on his opposition to subscription-based TV coverage for the sport.

JOE BROLLY HAS called himself a “hypocrite” after joining eir Sport as a pundit, despite previously slamming the GAA’s link with pay-per-view broadcasters.

eir-sport-allianz-leagues-fixtures-launch Brolly was speaking at the launch of eir Sport's 2020 Allianz Leagues coverage. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Brolly will be linking up with the subscription-based TV station for the upcoming Allianz Football League after his relationship with RTÉ came to an end last year.

The 50-year-old, who had been a long-serving member of the station’s Sunday Game programme, was benched for coverage of the All-Ireland final replay after his critical comments about referee David Gough. 

Brolly says he will be involved in four live shows as part of eir’s league coverage, but accepts that his actions will be perceived as hypocritical among GAA fans.

Well, you know, there you are then, I’m a hypocrite,” Brolly said when it was put to him about his previous objections to a pay-per-view model coming into the GAA.

“That’s fine. I’m not the best person to judge that.”

Brolly offered a few reasons for why he decided to accept eir’s invitation to join their punditry team.

He claims that he has been a vocal critic of the introduction of this kind of television coverage in the GAA, but says that the association “rejected my arguments completely” in the past.

Brolly added that he feels persisting with this cause is no longer worthwhile, and believes the GAA should embrace a new era of broadcasting the games.

“I suppose increasingly, I was feeling that you’re howling into the wilderness,” he said when remarking on his exhausted attempts to preserve the free-to-air culture in the GAA.

“You say it to any of the Gaelic footballers or hurlers who are here today that there’s a problem with eir or with Sky. They’d say ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’

Because it’s clear that there’s going to be a whole new landscape and it’s happening so quickly. Part of it obviously is that I was very hurt about what happened with RTÉ, and I don’t want to leave it at that because I love the public conversation on the telly.

“I’ve met GAA people in communities all over the world and GAAGO is an absolute lifeline for them. It costs €10 a game and the real thing for the GAA is that they should be able to have its own service. I’ve been advocating this for a long time. The GAA needs to take control of all TV.”

joe-brolly-and-pat-spillane Brolly alongside fellow GAA pundit Pat Spillane. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Brolly continued by saying that “the argument has been lost” in a response to a question about if he had completely changed his view on the presence of subscription-based GAA coverage.

The manner of Brolly’s departure from RTÉ was another motivating factor for the 1993 All-Ireland winner to join eir.

He admits that he simply wants to make a return to the TV studio and resume his role in the spotlight where he can participate and provoke debate for viewers.

When asked if he would have reneged on his views had eir Sport not offered him a punditry role, he replied:

It’s hard to say because I was very annoyed about the RTÉ thing and I didn’t expect a call from these people, and when I got the call it was like, ‘great.’ That was my instinctive reaction.

“I said, ‘ok I’ll meet you with an open mind.’ And when I met them they said, ‘we guarantee you free speech. You do what you do. There’ll be no editorial intrusion, you’ll be totally independent. You’ll be able to speak your mind.’

“Because whenever I was in that ivory tower in RTÉ, I didn’t really consider any of these things at all. So I have to say when I met them, I kind of felt excited. I have to say I love the telly.”

Elaborating on the atmosphere he experienced in RTÉ during his most recent years with the state broadcaster, Brolly claims that censorship has become a major problem at the station.

He says he felt stifled under the new head of sport Declan McBennett and believes that his time to leave was drawing near.

“It was definitely coming to an end. I was just being hemmed in and hemmed in. 

“I was told by the head of sport that it was unforgivable and unprofessional that I said to Pat Spillane at 11 minutes past 3 in the drawn [All-Ireland final] game, ‘will you stop pulling my arm?’

I said ‘are ya serious, have you lost your mad marbles.’ And he said, ‘no that can’t be tolerated. Your contract will not be renewed.’

“It was clearly a personal thing there and I had felt that from the moment the new head of sport had come in. All of a sudden, we were being micromanaged. It was all about statistics. I never saw the previous heads of sport. You might get a text on a Monday morning saying ‘that was terrific telly.’ But I never saw them.

“It became very micromanaged and very risk-averse. I was being told, ‘you can’t say that, and don’t talk about that.’

“I got a script for the All-Ireland final. I took a few screenshots so I wouldn’t doubt my own sanity. ‘You say this and this, and your video package will be this and this.’ I rang up said you need a newsreader or a narrator.”

eir Sport’s coverage kicks off on Saturday 25 January, with the home of Saturday night live GAA action broadcasting three matches across its channels.

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