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Dublin: 7°C Friday 27 November 2020

TV Wrap - Live coverage of women's World Cup goes a long way to silencing critics

Elsewhere, a few classic Irish tropes emerged on The Sunday Game.

“PERSONALITIES, NOT PRINCIPLES move the age”, said Oscar Wilde, and its truth was evident in RTÉ and TG4′s successful live coverage of the women’s World Cup. 

USA v Netherlands - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Final - Stade de Lyon Megan Rapinoe. Source: John Walton

Sport tells stories in a more interesting and visceral way than most other things, and the best way of telling these stories is through a focus on character.

The women’s World Cup was filled with great personalities, and in giving them a platform, RTÉ and TG4 thwarted much of the nonsense criticism that assails the women’s game.

It was a bad month for the troglodytes who gurned that the sport isn’t for women and made lame jokes about the offside rule, just as it was for the more self-aware objectors who draped their contempt in complaints about the ‘quality of the spectacle’ or the ‘lopsided nature of the tournament.’ 

People don’t watch football solely for the spectacle – they tune in to see engaging characters and the resolution of stories, and there are just as many in the women’s game as the men’s.

Among the highlights of the last month was the Last Stand of Marta, who used her farewell TV interview to issue a passionate, tearful clarion call to the next generation of Brazilian footballers. Work hard, Marta said; “cry at the beginning so you can smile at the end.” 

In calling it her moment of the tournament, Lisa Fallon summed it up nicely on RTÉ.

“I just loved it.

That was the moment that symbolised the transition this tournament can be. She is saying, ‘I’ve done all I can, it’s now time for you.’ She knows the hard work, the hard yards; she knows about doing it when the world isn’t watching.  This time the world was watching, and she got to say goodbye. The line I loved most was ‘Value it more.’ 

“That’s the best message she could have given. It’s not about her, it’s about what comes next and her deep-seated passion for the game, and I loved that.”  

Another stand-out personality was, of course, Megan Rapinoe, whose impact on this tournament was so great that hardly anyone noticed her tell Tony O’Donoghue yesterday that “we’re about to have the dopest party ever.”

(We assume he never got that from Martin O’Neill.)

Rapinoe and her teammates did the sport a great service not only by taking on the US Soccer Federation for the right of equal pay, but also by annoying so many people throughout the tournament to the point where they had to tune in. 

Commander-in-chief of this group is Donald Trump, who must be annoyed at having done so much to help women’s sport. 

The only downside of the RTÉ’s coverage of yesterday’s final was the absence of one of the tournament’s greatest stars, Phil Neville.

His England team lost a thrilling semi-final to the United States last week before losing the bronze medal match to Sweden – a deeply disappointing end for a coach who had talked unflinchingly about winning the competition. 

“They destroyed me,” said Neville after that game, in praise of his squad.

“They turned me into an emotional wreck. I cry at everything – I cry watching Dirty Dancing now, and Pretty Woman. Because they are the most unbelievable set of girls, honestly they are.”

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We might just have stumbled over a principle in all of this.

Maybe men are too emotional to succeed at this game.

England v USA - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Semi Final - Stade de Lyon An emotional Phil Neville, having watched a 1980s movie with a reasonably strong female lead. Source: Richard Sellers


Wilde said the above in ignorance of The Sunday Game.  

Few shows eschew talking about personalities in favour of principles as often as RTÉ’s flagship GAA show, and this reality was on display at the weekend.

The incredible Laois win over Dublin – the biggest shock of any of the championships thus far – gave Cyril Farrell cause to argue that there should be six teams in the Leinster Championship. 

This isn’t to say that Cyril didn’t hail Eddie Brennan and the Laois players – he did – but he also went on to prove the GAA’s version of Godwin’s Law that, regardless of the conversation, it will eventually end up in a chat about C**********p S*******s.

Elsewhere, Pat Spillane articulated a truth about local rivalry.

The only thing Cork people dislike more than a Kerry person criticising them is a Kerry person praising them.”

The live broadcast of Clare and Meath from Portlaoise, meanwhile, went about proving the principle that the one thing GAA fans can’t ignore is a TV camera.

Hence the post-game chat was set against the backdrop of rigid, jersied fans grouped like the cautionary gathering of glassy-eyed characters in a horror movie, staring directly down the lens in the hope of catching someone’s attention at home.

Capture 3

Not that any of this is a bad thing – the reason we have all fallen in such cramped and quarrelsome love with The Sunday Game is its commitment to tradition.

The show is never just about that particular Sunday but innumerable past ones, forming a lineage with the past by its being littered with emblems of the strange rituals, beliefs and behaviours that slowly accumulate to build a culture. 

This isn’t to say Sky’s GAA coverage is without any of this. Their scheduling of games has given rise to a new July tradition – the flooding of social media with pictures of lads watching Mayo at weddings.

But as for The Sunday Game – long may it reign.

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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