Tuesday 22 October 2019

Declan Lynch: 'RTE is throwing out more here than just the great Joe Brolly'

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Since I have no great interest in Gaelic football, you would think that RTE's decision to get rid of Joe Brolly for yesterday's match panel wouldn't make much difference to me. Then again, people who have always had a great interest in Gaelic football seem to have no great interest in it these days, so you'd think it wouldn't make much difference to them either.

But of course it does, because there is clearly something more being abandoned here than just one Joe Brolly.

This is RTE effectively giving up on the better parts of its purpose, and handing itself over to the corporate hacks. This is RTE making a definitive statement that they have very little time for talent any more, and in most cases would prefer to be doing whatever they do, without it.

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It is an appalling decision. It is deeply, embarrassingly wrong.

I mentioned the word "talent" there, a word which sometimes causes a bit of puzzlement when it is used in relation to people on television who are basically just talking. In fact, on my occasional visits to TV studios, I used to find it strange to hear people who worked on the studio floor referring routinely to "the talent" - accustomed as I was to thinking that in order to be seen as talented, you had to be playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No 9 in E-Flat Major.

As it happens, Joe Brolly can do that too, but the main thing about him as a TV personality is that he has that mysterious quality - or talent, if you like - which persuades you to watch a programme that you wouldn't otherwise be watching, just because a particular person is on it.

And like I say, I have no great interest in Gaelic football, but I have actually watched the RTE half-time analysis of games for no reason except that Brolly is on it, and have happily switched to some other programme when the game starts again.

I have done this, even though I have found some of his views to be hugely objectionable, like the time he responded to criticism of the naming of GAA grounds in Northern Ireland after various "freedom fighters", with the line that people can "like it or lump it".

I really hated that stuff, but I would still watch him on television, just like I would watch Eamon Dunphy, if he was on the RTE panel any more - which he is not, because there too they seem to be satisfied that whatever he did can just as easily be done by someone who is nowhere near as good.

Read more: Joe Brolly: 'This Kerry team will win an All-Ireland - but it won't be for a few years. Dublin are a different class'

I would tend to put Dunphy and Brolly in the same frame because they have this similar restlessness, a kind of a dread of boredom or at least a dread of being bored by other people - and they have a hinterland, they are engaged with issues which stretch even beyond the most urgent one of who's going to win the game.

So they are, in some odd way, trying harder than the others, even when they don't seem to be watching the same game as everyone else - they have this urge to say something not only about the meaning of the last substitution but about the meaning of life.

And ultimately that is of more significance than the name of the full-back for Borussia Dortmund, or whether the referee is interpreting the rules correctly in a Gaelic match in which only about three people in Ireland know the rules anyway.

Indeed Brolly's ousting from RTE came after he had made a poor comment about referee David Gough's performance in the first All-Ireland final, for which he apologised last week, in an article in this paper - he writes excellent articles too, and I gather from those in the engine room in here, that he has a remarkable ability to send in a match report that looks like it took days to write, rather than minutes.

So what the hell is happening, when our public service broadcaster seems to be getting rid of good people, just because they have a bad day?

Watch: WATCH: Joe Brolly arrives for the All-Ireland replay

In truth, the proposition needs to be reframed, because it is perfectly possible that the relevant parties in RTE didn't believe that Brolly was good in the first place - that they don't know the difference between good and bad any more. Or at least that they have quite a different concept of what is good, than would be rightly understood.

To them it seems that staying away from trouble is good, a kind of corporate banality is good, that a panel with a Brolly or a Dunphy on it, is not as good as the one without them.

At a time when they need to be led by brilliant people making brilliant decisions more or less all the time, in order to have any meaningful kind of existence, RTE displays all the executive creativity of a blindfolded man swinging a hatchet.

Last week, too, there was talk that Lyric FM may be doomed. Again, there are parts of Lyric that I have never liked, but there is Marty Whelan and John Kelly and Liz Nolan and The Blue of the Night, and if you extinguish all that for the sake of a few quid, you are not being brilliant - you are just doing what any eejit would do, and like I say, more is needed than that.

Indeed of late there has been much talk about RTE's enormous losses, about various strategies which the director-general might deploy - from the reduction of Ryan Tubridy's wages to the selling of more land in Donnybrook.

They seem to prefer to talk about that stuff, about the "challenges" of the marketplace, rather than the challenges of using the talent at their disposal.

Then you hear that Joe Brolly has been cancelled, and Lyric is in danger, and you realise that not only are they insensitive to talent, they seem to be determined to chuck it away.

It's game over, baby!

For the big games, it's better to stick with players we know for sure will never score...

A melancholy feeling came over  me, listening to Mick McCarthy musing about the slim chance that the young or lesser-known lads will get into the squad for the games against Georgia, Switzerland and Denmark.

Indeed one was reminded again that Mick is perfectly suited to the job, because his own melancholic tones seem to be in tune with ours.

And hearing his discouraging words, I tried to summarise his position, and I put it like this: The young lads are great, but in the big games it's better to stick with players we know for certain will never score.

That is why most of us were sad - as sad as Mick himself, no doubt - to hear him suggesting that, say, Troy Parrott mightn't be quite ready yet for such a massive, massive game.

Listen to us Mick... he's ready.

Even if he isn't ready in some theoretical sense, he's ready.

And Mick, another thing... Jack Byrne is ready too.

Again, if it turns out that he's not ready, don't worry about it, Mick. If it doesn't work out for Parrottsy and himself against Georgia, it won't be your fault. We will take the blame for wanting it too much. And you'll be going soon anyway, so it's win-win.

And even if it's lose-lose, we don't care any more.

Just put them out there on the field, Mick, for Christ's sake. The lads can play a bit, and that's all we want now - just the odd glimpse of a few lads who can play, all the better because one of them is only 17.

Which reminds us that John Giles and Liam Brady made their international debuts when they were 18 - and they both had sensational games, regardless of the fact that wise old football men at the time were probably assuring everyone that it was all a terrible mistake which might have far-reaching consequences for the lads, and possibly ruin their lives.

Didn't happen, Mick, didn't happen. Indeed the opposite happened - and who knows? It just might happen again.

So this idea of ours to play young Parrott at least is not necessarily a desperate response to the endless nothingness of these nights at the Aviva, there are many precedents for it - for England, Michael Owen astonished the world when he was 18.

I mean, have you been watching the old Republic in recent years, Mick? Have you seen what we have seen? Do you not think that if Troy Parrott makes all the difference against Georgia, it will be almost supernaturally fantastic for all of us? Can you imagine how great that would be?

It's only Georgia, Mick, it's only Georgia - and yet the way we are, there's a good chance of us not scoring against them. So we've worked out that it's better for a 17-year-old not to score, than a 27-year-old. And, anyway, we've got to make the most of the lad.

As that grand old football man, WB Yeats, might have put it: there is no second Troy.

For the big games, it's better to stick with players we know for sure will never score...

Once upon a time, when music led the fight for Irish freedom...

It was more than a double-take, it was at least a treble-take and possibly even a quadruple-take when my eyes first landed on the poster for the Feile - the Trip to Tipp.

In big letters I saw names such as Sinead O'Connor and Horslips and The Stunning and The Fat Lady Sings and Something Happens and Sultans of Ping and a version of Thin Lizzy led by the incomparable Brian Downey, surely the greatest of all rock drummers.

It was disorientating. My first impressions were that this must be some kind of an elaborate time-machine kind of thing, a graphic design fantasy put together by one of those people on the internet who put together that sort of thing.

Yet it is real, it is actually happening in real life in real time in a real place next weekend. And if there is one thing uniting the artists, apart from their longevity, it's the fact that for most of them, being in a band was a kind of a statement in itself against the prevailing Irish culture of their time.

I mean, Hozier is a lovely fellow and he makes sweet music, but when Hozier votes in any referendum these days he fully expects "his" side - the progressive side - to win. Most of the people who'll be on stage in Thurles couldn't even imagine voting for a winner until they were about 45.

Little wonder that the Irish rock stars of that era - the likes of Geldof, Bono, Sinead - were so angry. And Horslips, just by playing in ballrooms where no such thing had ever been heard, were blowing away the forces of obscurantism in their own domain.

Really everyone playing at Feile should be given a medal, for what they did in the fight for Irish freedom.

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