This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 11 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
Advertisement

TV Wrap: The Sunday Game returns with a new approach and an age-old trait

For all of its new gadgets and approach, the show still left lots of people annoyed.

CÚ CHULAINN WAS, among other things, one of the first great men of advertising.

‘This thing they call ‘hurling’…ram it down their throats!’

Capture Dónal Óg Cusack and Henry Shefflin, with added tech.

Hence we spent 2018 listening to how truly magnificent this sport is, while football’s heart hung ever-more humble; forced to retreat ever deeper into its lonely tower, given nothing but time to consider its hideous appearance.

This was, you’ll remember, the year which rounded off an astonishing championship with a documentary proclaiming hurling as a “game for the Gods.”

So will 2019 be any different? Can this be football’s year? 

Will hurling be displaced from the nation’s affections by this rudimentary, democratic art?

TV Wrap tuned into The Sunday Game to find out.

Des Cahill appeared at the top of the show, promising heroic and surprising football deeds from all four provinces…”but we’ll start with hurling.”

Wuh-wuh-wuhhhhhhhhhhh.

It is a measure of hurling’s blithe, outrageous self-assurance that Henry Shefflin appeared wearing an aqua jumper and a mad shirt decorated with birds, one of which might have been a (round?) Robin. [You’re fired - Ed.]

Capture Henry with shirt.

“Part of the Summer; part of what we love every year!”, roared Ger Canning on commentary of Waterford/Clare in deference to this new structure.

Hurling analysis is often derided for its reverence, often consisting of dazzled and satisfied men whispering odes loyal to the Codyism that “the game takes on a life of its own.”

That’s not necessarily something this column is bothered by, given it once led to Anthony Daly delivering a profound truth.

Sure look, hurling. A thousand mad things and then someone comes out on top.

Last night’s Sunday Game, however, began demystifying the whole hazy art.

Henry and Dónal Óg Cusack sat in front of an elevated touch screen, armed with a blizzard of statistics and numbers and proven trends, all the while pausing and un-pausing key moments with expertise. 

Explaining the drop-off in Dublin’s second-half performance against Kilkenny, for example, Dónal Óg told us that the Dubs averaged 5.71 scores per 10 possessions in the first-half, and this then dropped to a measly 2.96 in the second-half.

You couldn’t but be impressed.

The motivation for this evolution may have been on show during an ad-break, as Sky plugged their GAA coverage with Peter Canavan prodding an even bigger touchscreen,declaring that “the game has changed, so has the way we watch it.”

It seems that RTÉ are competing with Sky’s clinical interrogations of games by introducing a bit of scientific rigour of their own.

So whereas once much of RTÉ’s analysis was the meditating of men on a series of shared and understood truths, now it looks like they will have to show their workings.

Nonetheless, the hurling weekend wasn’t free of a bit of madness, as Tomás O’Sé addressed later on in the show when it was time for football to limp into action.

“We saw a Maor Foirne catching a sliotar, what chance have we got?”, said O’Sé, before giving thanks he had Limerick’s remarkable upset of Tipperary to talk about.

That incident, said Dónal Óg, went against the spirit of the game.

Football can surely only be jealous for such a defined spirit, as it remains in the midst of its existential crisis.

We almost got through the first bit of football analysis without a mention of C**********p S********s, until Joe Brolly called for a three-tier championship to give teams a fighting chance and eliminate the kind of pragmatic but dreary football that blighted Clare’s low-scoring win over Waterford.

The general tenor surrounding the lumpen game at the moment was reflected in a report on Louth/Wexford, which seemed to share a narrator with one of Ken Burns’ ten-hour war epics. 

Elsewhere, the elevated touch screen disappeared as the show wore on – presumably for losing its war with The Brolly Slouch – and a dip in the archives pulled out Tyrone’s 2003 All-Ireland win and Pat Spillane’s lashing it as “puke football.”

This dig through the vaults will be a recurring theme this year, given the show is now in its 40th year. 

There was a great amount of moaning after the broadcast, with social media feeds filled with objections to either the amount of time given to their county; the incidents that were analysed when their county was given time; or to the amount of time given to games that had been live on the same channel hours earlier. 

To read all of this is to know why the show is still around. 

It is a mass, communal vehicle of complaint that has been bringing disparate souls together for 40 years. Had it left everyone satisfied, it would have been off-air years ago. 

So while the pundits and their analysis and their gadgets will change, the necessity of leaving something out will not.

And it is for that reason that The Sunday Game will persist, its imperfect and exasperating genius intact. 

- Originally published at 13.30
Subscribe to our new podcast, The42 Rugby Weekly, here:

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

Read next:

COMMENTS (48)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel