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TV Wrap - A winter of moaning finally ends while Brolly meets the new sheriff in town

Elsewhere, it seems that Jeff Stelling’s unforgettable trip to the 2017 All-Ireland final wasn’t so unforgettable after all.

Joe Brolly and Joanne Cantwell on last night's edition of Allianz League Sunday.
Joe Brolly and Joanne Cantwell on last night's edition of Allianz League Sunday.

IT’S A WELL-known historical fact that Cu Chulain lashed a sliotar down a hound’s throat just to stop its moaning about the price of admission to a typical King Conchobar feast.

On with the games!

The GAA winter is the season of mutters and moans, and this was made worse when The Lads Up In Croke Park foolishly rolled the All-Ireland finals back into August and found the newly-exposed September earth crawling with yet more potential sedition.

This year’s off-season was particularly interminable.

Player burnout! B championships! The fixtures are a farce! Football’s shite! Wait, this hand-pass rule is shite! Maybe the football wasn’t so shite after all! The Tipp hurlers won’t talk about Tipp, and they’re sponsored by a PR company! And the Derry hurlers won’t talk about…anything?

Then, arriving last to this festival of great injury and complaint, a story so quintessentially January that it sang false repentance for the excesses of Christmas while thinking about quitting the drink.

The GAA were hiking the price of match tickets.

If there is anything that sustains this nation’s ability to complain better than the GAA, it’s money.

As the poet Kavanagh (fittingly) complained, “money talks everywhere but only money seems to talk in Ireland.”

That we would all be presented with a legitimate January complaint that involved the GAA, money, the GAA’s attitude to money and the place of money in the GAA was an unforeseen chance for gluttony in otherwise arid times.

Call it Mardi Gaah.

Wandering blindly into this mass venting was poor Dick Clerkin, who somehow ended up spending a week as the lightning rod for a whole country’s anxieties and outrages about late-stage global Capitalism.

That he managed to do this while Bono was talking at the World Economic Forum in Davos is a feat of such dazzling perversity that it should be seen as an achievement and further proof that the GAA has already won whatever battle it is fighting.

Clerkin tweeted that anyone moaning about the price of tickets in the GAA should “jog on”, and then doubled down on his words with an appearance on OTBAM.

“Do people want the GAA to give them money at the gate? Would that make them happy?” asked Clerkin, presumably knowing that would indeed make a lot of people happy.

Later on, when talking about the ethics of charging children €90 a ticket for the All-Ireland finals, he – unbelievably – asked rhetorically, “What business does an eight-year-old have going to an All-Ireland final?”

Even the GAA agnostics couldn’t but be moved now: won’t somebody think of the children!?

This led to Clerkin clarifying his remarks on Twitter, saying that he only meant it from the point of view that the child would have been taking the place of some elderly, weather-beaten Gael who had presumably spent more than eight years pouring tea and pumping balls and had the decency to cling bitterly to a thwarted senior club career.

Clerkin also bemoaned his being portrayed as a “company man”, startled at being cast as if he had been “batting for the flippin Taliban!!”, in what is surely the first-ever juxtaposition of those two words.

His central point that everyone should pay to be entertained was ironically undermined by how entertaining his own argument proved to be.

By the time Allianz League Sunday rolled around on RTÉ, however, the time for talking was done.

The league highlights show is now afforded the capacious 9.30pm slot given to The Sunday Game, and this new format was determined to atone for the sins of the show’s previous, oft-feckless incarnation.

2019 League Sunday was determined to show as much action as possible and remember that the lower divisions do, in fact, exist (one edition of 2018 League Sunday didn’t even flash the Division Four football results on the bottom of the screen).

Joe Brolly was shown there’s a fastidious new sheriff in town, here on a mandate to restrict Joe’s laconic diagnoses of the world’s ills and relegate them to his newspaper columns.

His best efforts to complain about the experimental rules were given short shrift, told in no uncertain terms that “we don’t have time to get into the rules”, while there wasn’t a single mention of ticket prices, nor was there a discussion as to what thankless volunteering eight-year-olds should be doing to earn a seat in Croke Park.

When Gooch and Joe showered the attacking mark in praise, Joe went rooting around for a complaint by questioning the thought-process behind its implementation.

He was met with the strangest of things from the presenter’s chair: a challenge.

“Are you going to argue with every little thing I say, Joanne? It’s going to be a long year.”

Nowhere near as long as that winter.

But it’s finally over.

On with the games and their mad, gorgeous, abundant summer.

Unbearable, Jeff 

Every time we turn on the television these days, it seems, there’s another Brit making a hames of some of the most basic facts about Ireland. We had hoped that sport would remain above wretched, irredeemable politics, but alas, we have been gravely let down.

On Soccer Saturday, Jeff Stelling was talking about Carlow’s Padraig Amond, whom he said “could have been a Gaelic footballer but he chose the round ball instead.” 

You may remember that Stelling took the place of some elderly, weather-beaten Gael at the 2017 All-Ireland football final on a junket with AIB.

He and Chris Kamara were given a commentary seat for one of the greatest games of the modern era after a jaunt around Ireland in which they learned just how deeply these games are embedded within us, having many unforgettable experiences on the way. 

To pluck one example from the series, here’s Jeff reflecting in episode 4 on what the GAA is all about. 

“Dad, couple of sons, grandchildren…it’s a proper family occasion, isn’t it?”, Jeff told…Dick Clerkin. 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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