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TV Wrap - RTÉ analysis veers toward a circus as Kerry assert old swagger against the Dubs

There was much disagreement over Johnny Cooper’s red card, while Pat Spillane talked about ‘unknown unknowns.’

The Sunday Game Live panel.
The Sunday Game Live panel.

THE ONE SURPLUS the EU could never reckon with was confidence in Kerry.

Thus it has developed its own system of control – The Yerra, in which Kerry people agree to submerge their self-confidence beneath cartoonish modesty on the unspoken agreement the rest of the country knows exactly what they’re at.

Given their record in All-Ireland finals, it’s little wonder Kerry is humming with esteem – whenever we want to feel better about ourselves we usually turn to the GAA’s games.

This worked out well for American comedian Josh Pray, whose effusive reaction videos to hurling made us feel so good about ourselves that Tourism Ireland flew him over for yesterday’s final, so he could tell his new Irish followers that, yes, your people are fine and your games are amazing.

Kerry confidence occasionally breaks beyond the borders of The Yerra, as it did when John B. Keane described a Kerry footballer with an inferiority complex as “one who thinks he’s just as good as everybody else.”

It is such blithe self-assurance that allowed Pat Spillane fill RTÉ’s All-Ireland final build-up with several mentions of what Donald Rumsfeld supposedly called “unknown unknowns.”

Spillane was cleaving himself to the essential unknowability of sport in making the case for Kerry ahead of throw-in, and felt moved to make maybe six mentions of these “unknown unknowns”, which the rest of us may better recognise as “unknowns.”

Spillane probably meant the “known unknowns”, which Rumsfeld termed the things we know we do not know. That, or Spillane was striking profundity by saying that football is filled with such uncertainty that we can’t even be certain that anything uncertain will happen. Or something like that.

In fairness to Pat, he seemed uncharacteristically rattled by a Joe Brolly outburst: “Can I just finish the point? Seriously? Stop patting me!”

Brolly was less sensitive to physical contact by half-time, as he and Ciaran Whelan argued the penalty awarded against Johnny Cooper for tangling with David Clifford was soft.

The half-time analysis then descended into a circus over Cooper’s second yellow.

Having watched a series of slow-motion clips showing Cooper grabbing Clifford’s arm and hauling him to the ground, Brolly and Whelan somehow argued it should actually have been a free out, with Whelan ultimately denying that Cooper had in fact pulled Clifford at all, thus putting him in even bolder philosophical territory than Pat’s “unknown unknowns.”

This was another step up from Henry Shefflin’s defence of Richie Hogan at half-time in the hurling final, with Whelan at one point saying that Spillane was bound to be biased in favour of Kerry just as he would be for Dublin.

If that’s the agreement here, that pundits will deny something everyone can see with their own eyes, then what is the point of bothering with it?

RTÉ panelists have been criticised for their kvetching about the GAA’s pay-per-view deal in the past, but this, in fairness, was a good advertisement for switching to Sky’s coverage.

Senan Connell and Peter Canavan agreed Cooper deserved to be sent off, doing so in their usual polite, highly reasonable way.

This makes Sky’s coverage occasionally bland, but it was preferable to what happened on RTÉ yesterday afternoon, as the trio traded empty bluster. True Gales, indeed.

Things were happily more calm by full-time, with the panel content to praise the game in the absence of a winner.

“It was great to be alive today”, cooed Spillane.

Brolly had his hand resting on Spillane’s arm by the end. “We’re very happy”, said Pat. “We enjoyed ourselves.”

“They got out of jail”, said Whelan of the Dubs. The Kingdom aren’t used to acts of regicide, but they came mightily close to bringing the crown back with them to Kerry.

Plenty will feel they have now missed their chance, but that pessimism is unlikely to survive contact with air in Kerry.

“Nobody gave you a chance coming up here”, began Claire McNamara in her post-match interview with Peter Keane.

“Yerra, I suppose look, the history was on Dublin’s side going for five-in-a-row, they have won the last four and they didn’t exactly get them in Lucky Bags.”

“Yerra was his very first word”, laughed Brolly.

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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