Monday 27 February 2017

Sinead Kissane: Rewards worth risk when hard questions asked in heat of moment

Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Johnny Glynn signs an autograph prior to giving a television interview after last weekend’s victory over Cork
Johnny Glynn signs an autograph prior to giving a television interview after last weekend’s victory over Cork

What do you want from a player or a manager in a post-match TV interview? Anger? Humility? Tears? F-bombs? All of the above at once?

But seriously, post-match interviews aren't just about emotions, they're about explanations - as honest an explanation as we can get about what just happened out on the pitch and thoughts on the future.

Trying to tease out emotions and explanations from a player or manager in the white heat moments after the full-time whistle brings with it risk and reward.

And risk and reward were jostling for position after two of RTE's post-match TV interviews following Galway's win over Cork in the All-Ireland hurling quarter-final last Sunday. There was Johnny Glynn's flash interview on the pitch. And later, there was the interview with Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

Some might see it as a risk interviewing a young, media-inexperienced player 55 seconds after the full-time whistle in a game where he double-dipped with a goal of the season and a man of the match performance. But risk can go and take a jump here.

Just look at the reward; RTE sideline reporter Joanne Cantwell's interview with Glynn was so refreshing. His "f***ing bullshit" comment got the headlines (dammit, sometimes swear words just aptly sum up how you feel) but, more importantly, it was everything else he said and didn't say.

Unvarnished

There was the complete absence of guff and clichés as Glynn talked in his own honest and unvarnished way.

It was the way he described his goal as "all I remember was that I thought I was going to get clobbered on the way in there". It was the defiance in his voice when he spoke about the other forwards on the team as well as Joe Canning.

But why this interview worked was because Cantwell asked questions as opposed to making statements. Her leading question "what's this about Galway only having one forward?" got the desired reaction with Glynn's response.

Imagine instead of his "f***ing bullshit" comment, if Glynn had fed us the "we don't read the papers" line or some other yawn-inducing answer. Glynn gave as good as he got in the interview, which made for good TV.

Doing flash interviews on the pitch, you don't want time to sanitise or dilute that high-octane emotion the player is feeling. And the interviewer wants the viewer at home to be in on that feeling too.

It's not about catching a player out with questions so soon after a game - it's about talking to players whose emotions at a more heightened state which might lead to a greater insight into their mindset and their emotions. When The Sunday Game showed another interview with Glynn which was recorded later on, the feel to it compared to the on-pitch one was totally different - more reserved and, well, more dull.

But should the tone of the questions asked to amateur players and managers be different to professional players? Should the type of questions I ask the Ireland rugby players on the pitch straight after a game at the upcoming World Cup for example be different to the ones asked to an amateur GAA player who doesn't get paid for playing?

Should a GAA manager be asked about his position straight after a match when he's not getting paid for that "job"?

I think we like to have it both ways in the GAA. Teams like to be seen as (and are) ultra-professional in approach to training, diet etc. Yet if any 'hard' questions are asked of players and managers (without malice or agenda) then accusations of "they're only amateurs" gets an airing.

I certainly would not like to see reporters constantly question managers about their futures as if the notoriety that comes with asking The Question is like notches on the bed-post. But amateur or not, the GAA is so important to us that there simply has to be variations of accountability at all levels.

Which brings us to the risk and reward of Cantwell asking Barry-Murphy about his future at the end of their post-match interview.

"What about you going forward now?" Cantwell asked. "Ah yeah I can't wait for next year," Barry-Murphy replied. "And you fully intend to be around for next year?" Cantwell asked. "Can't wait for next year," Barry-Murphy dead-panned.

Reaction

The risk was the reaction to The Question. There was a bit of a grumble on social media. Back in the RTE studio, Ger Loughnane didn't like The Question.

"In fairness he shouldn't be asked a question like that. Jimmy has given such service to Cork," Loughnane stated.

But the first thought that came into my head when the match finished was "I wonder will Jimmy stay on?" And that's meant as no disrespect to Barry-Murphy.

Asking a question with the kind of respect that Cantwell asked him last Sunday wasn't an attempt to publicly undermine Barry-Murphy. It was just a question looking for an answer.

The reward in asking the question came in the defiant way that Barry-Murphy answered it. If his players had shown the same kind of defiance then maybe things could have turned out differently for them.

It was good to see Barry-Murphy looking and sounding so resolute. And even better when he shook Cantwell's hand after and gave her a knowing smile - knowing she was only doing her job.

The reward had trumped the risk. When done with respect, it generally does.

Irish Independent

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