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Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 5 July, 2020

TV Wrap: Too much well-worn talk, not enough action on The Sunday Game

The best argument for tiering the football championships is that it will end the talk of tiering the football championships.

THE SUNDAY GAME: a home for the True Gale.

The flagship highlights programme blew its bluster again last night, with Joe Brolly loosed to do what Joe Brolly does.

Capture Joe Brolly and Ciaran Whelan on last night's Sunday Game. Source: The Sunday Game Twitter

This was a kind of Greatest Hits compilation, in which he once again found new words to wield old ideas.

Opening track: Mayo, God Help Us…

“The nation’s favourite tragicomedy unfolding again,” he said. “It is more enthralling watching Mayo losing, than watching any other team winning, including the Dubs.

“The sense of panic that seized Mayo after the two goals – and they were not able to show that composure. It became a kaleidoscope of disaster…the disaster of all disasters, compelling as always, but a car-crash.”

That was in response to a question inviting praise for Roscommon.

Eventually, in deference to the slighted Rossie, Des abandoned subtlety.

“And Roscommon, do you have any praise for them?”

Mayo were also described as having too many ‘spuddlers’, which Brolly told us means people who “appear to be doing the job but not actually doing it at all.”

Next up: If You Tolerate This, Your U14 Footballers Will Be Next.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing” interjected Joe when Des asked Ciaran Whelan what Fermanagh bring to the table.

“Fermanagh come out to nullify all forms of human excitement, of sport…I can take my U14s out and teach them to do that. There’s no doubt I’d be told that it’s absolutely appalling; what is it doing for the next generation of Fermanagh footballers?”

And finally, the  triple-platinum selling Valley of Tiers.

“Des, you could set the Antrim footballers up like acrobats on the crossbar: three on top, three on top, three on top to prevent points and then a few on the goal line. It wouldn’t do anything to change the result, it would be a horrendous spectacle.

“What you are talking about here is a tiered championship.”

And later in the show, after a Leinster championship double-header, more talk of  C**********p S********s.

“The Uachtarain is very determined to go for the two tiers.

“I believe we need three tiers – any Gael who is interested in seeing a vibrant, more democratic structure for Gaelic games in this country, that will really stimulate competition must support the Uachtarain in this drive he is on.”

These were delivered with all of the pouts, shrugs, slouches and grating interjections of the quintessential Brolly performance.

Another classic was covered by Ciaran Whelan, after Joe had put together a package highlighting Tyrone’s defensive frailties in the win over Antrim.

“Only Joe can do a piece of analysis on Antrim when Tyrone have won by a cricket score”, ventured Whelan as Brolly theatrically looked away and into the distance.  

“You’ve spent two years hammering Tyrone in terms of the set-up. Now they are playing a fantastic brand of football…you’ve had a chip on your shoulder about Tyrone for years.” 

(This was an odd moment, as both disagreed by making broadly the same point – Tyrone are playing better football, but will have to give a bit more attention to their defence.)

The whole thing was all perfectly entertaining, and while there was nothing wrong in what Brolly said, there wasn’t anything new, either. 

We’ve reached the point that the best argument for tiering the football championship is that it will end the talk of tiering the football championship.

It’s ideal Winter Talk and acceptable Midweek Filler, but why is it cropping up on second Sunday night in three weeks?

Is it really important to squash the action from an extra-time, 40-score thriller between Longford and Kildare into three minutes to allow us hear well-worn arguments for why a different competition format would reward us with a few, er, high-scoring thrillers?

This is not to cherry-pick a one-off game to invalidate the entire tiering argument, but given the absurdity of the antiquated and imbalanced provincial system has by now been widely accepted along with the fact moves are afoot to change it – can we not see a bit more of the few, entertaining aberrations of the present?

At one point last night, while chewing on the nature of Fermanagh, Brolly threw his head back as if to commend his spirit into the hands of the great catch-and-kick merchants of the skies.

“This is like a drama class”, said Des.

You wonder of The Sunday Game: what do they think is the real drama?

Is it the actual sporting action, or the men talking about it?

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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