Joe Brolly: 'Treat the disease, not the symptoms'
The new football playing rules typify the sheer incompetence of the central GAA. The centrepiece of the package is the three handpass rule, which has been trialled already . . . in the 1989...
The new football playing rules typify the sheer incompetence of the central GAA. The centrepiece of the package is the three handpass rule, which has been trialled already . . . in the 1989...
The proposed new rules in Gaelic football do not deal with the root cause of the game's problem - as I have previously said. Instead they deal with the symptoms.
In the painter Bobby Ballagh's excellent autobiography, A Reluctant Memoir, he reveals his parents' Olympian pedigree.
The Sunday Game team was reunited last weekend in New York, probably for the last time. Our studio was on stage in the third floor ballroom at the...
It is perhaps the most famous goal in the history of Gaelic football. It is July 6, 1991. The third replay of the Leinster Championship match between...
It is not often you see Anthony Tohill angry. When he is, nobody speaks. They look down at their feet until he is finished.
One night after training towards the end of 1992, Eamonn Coleman announced he was bringing in a sports psychologist called Craig Mahoney to help the squad. This provoked amusement and bemusement.
When Kieran Donaghy strode into the square for a big game, they should have had Michael Buffer announcing his arrival. "In the green and gold corner, standing 6' 5" in height, weighing in at 16.5 stone, with a heavyweight championship record of 13 goals and 32 points, an incredible 41 goal assists and 103 points, the Tralee Terror, Kieran 'The Star' Donaghyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy."
Mickey Harte's unforgivable error was not to dump Tyrone's zonal defensive system after last year's semi-final. Stubbornness can be a virtue but not when it flies in the face of logic. Failing to learn the lessons from that day puts him into the category of climate change deniers.
My old Derry team-mate Eamonn Burns tells a story about going to play football for the weekend in New York in 1995.
The referee should have stopped the game halfway through Kerry versus Galway last Sunday (I write 'game' for want of a better word) so that a...
The striking feature of the game was how silent the crowd was. Dublin are so aware of everything that is happening on the field that they do not...
A hurling friend of mine from Dungiven was in Kilkenny recently and went to see their senior hurlers training. When hurling was revived in...
Pat Spillane said an interesting thing to me last week. We were talking about Kerry and he said "the last time Kerry had this number of championship debutants was 1975". For the...
In Russia the other night, a plague of midges descended on the Volgograd Stadium, irritating the players, and driving the spectators mad. A bit like Fermanagh. I'm looking forward to watching...
Arriving into Healy Park last Sunday for the Ulster club semi-final double-header, I was delighted to find myself sitting beside Gerry Donnelly. Sadly, his joke about the woman breast-feeding on the Magherafelt bus will have to wait until the children are in bed. As a young man, Gerry graced the Newbridge bench for over a decade, and to this day he retains his love for watching others play football.
I was in Berlin for a few days over Halloween and was happy enough until I discovered the Crossmaglen match had been fixed for the Saturday night, not the Sunday.
After writing about the barbarism of MMA over the last few weeks, the backlash left me feeling like a man who had woken up in the middle of a Tourette's convention.
MMA is a corruption of martial arts. Extreme violence and a moronic culture (think professional fake wrestling with real violence) are its twin pillars. This moronic culture is all about disrespect, vile abuse, revelling in extreme violence (the more savage a beating is, the better), condoning criminality and hero-worshipping money. Critics are attacked and frozen out. Only cheerleaders...
In the movie Django Unchained, Django and the Doctor visit a wealthy southern slave owner (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). As they are shown into the drawing room, two slaves are fighting in front of a hearty fire for their masters' amusement and money.
I stopped in Enniscrone for a coffee the other day. Sitting outside in the bright sunshine, a beautiful old lady came over to say hello. She told me she was Maureen Loftus, née Ó Sé, originally from Dingle, and that her brother Tomás Ó Sé had played for the Kingdom in the 1950s. "It's very sad what has happened to the football," she said. "I prefer to watch the hurling now." Maureen is...
It is a long time since I felt excitement watching a Tyrone team playing football. I was at the Emyvale club in Monaghan a few days before last Sunday's semi-final. The club sponsor from Silverhill Ducks presented me with a duck down duvet and pillow set. He said: "You can use these to sleep in the studio during Tyrone matches." Which got a big laugh.
Somebody forgot to tell Galway this was an All-Ireland semi-final. Sean Cavanagh said on RTE radio beforehand he "totally believed Galway will put it up to them." Like that was going to happen. Oul sugary nonsense.
It is no surprise that Tyrone's manager for life was upset last week when some journalists at the pre-match press conference had the gall to ask him actual questions. The problem arose when journalist Michael Clifford asked Mickey about Sky flatly denying Mickey's allegation that it was they who had narrowed the Omagh pitch for the Dublin match.
I've been saying all year that Galway are a mirage. A dull regime and a dull system of play inevitably create a dull team. As predicted, they were entirely predictable, and Monaghan made short work of them.
My son and some of his schoolmates were giving a concert in Belfast during the week when Prince Charles dropped in, something that wouldn't have happened in my day.
Last Sunday's Ulster semi-final was a very poor reflection on Rory Gallagher and Malachy O'Rourke's ability. From the 71st minute, when Fermanagh scored their lucky goal from what Rory described as a miscued shot, until the final whistle, there were more than three minutes of excitement. In Ulster inter-county football, this simply should not be happening. As angry Fermanagh supporters have...
Paraic Farrelly from Cavan is obsessed with Gaelic football and for some time, we have kept up a lively WhatsApp correspondence. I could be sitting in a packed court 11, waiting to rise to my feet to cross-examine a flummoxed detective, when I feel the buzz in my pocket: 'Greg Blaney was a better number 11 than Brian McGuigan, what do you think?' Or, 'What is your best ever half-back...
Anto Finnegan came to Celtic Park for the match last Sunday. We went for drink beforehand on the sound basis that it is no longer possible to watch a Derry match sober. As far as Anto is concerned, his motor neurones are a mere hindrance. His legs and arms no longer work and his son Conal has to tilt his head back when it falls forward, but like The Black Knight in Monty Python, these are trifles. For two hours we laughed and reminisced on the street outside Mary Bs, Anto sucking down bottles of lager out of a straw as Conal held the bottle. Life is for living.
Mickey Harte, manager for life, said after the game last Sunday that Tyrone lost because of the Monaghan goal just before half-time. It was "the critical moment," he said. "Ultimately, the goal and point before half-time was the winning of the game."
Shaun Mullan was the strapping young captain of the Ballerin senior football team.
The big man smiling in on the right is Seamus McDonagh. It is half-time in extra time of the epic championship game last Sunday in Gaelic Park between Leitrim and New York. New York are two points up and Seamus is grinning with delight because his godson Dalton McDonagh, a born and bred New Yorker, is playing at corner-forward for the American challengers.
Warning. This document is classified and can only be read by those with D1 security clearance. You may also read this if you have signed a confidentiality agreement with the Donegal County Board in the last five months.
Our under 16s were due to play against Burren, one of the top teams in Down, last Saturday.
Horse goes into a pub and falls into conversation with a donkey. Says to the donkey, "What do you do for a living?" Donkey says, "I take kids on my back at the beach. What about yourself?" Horse says, "I'm retired now, just taking it handy." "What did you do?" asks the donkey. Horse says, "I don't want to blow my own trumpet but I used to be a champion racehorse." "No way," says the donkey. "I ran on the flat and over the jumps. Won the Derby, the St Leger and, in the twilight of my career, I won the Grand National." "Wow," says the donkey.
We were only a few miles from MacHale Park last Sunday morning, but life is too short for optional Tyrone watching. Instead, we drove to Salthill to see the Dubs. I have been in Norway in the winter and Salthill was colder. A freezing gale drove up the pitch, the tricolour clinging to its pole for dear life.
"From Berlin to San Francisco, I've gone on before the disco, Lashing out the Four Green Fields of Athenry, Mountbellew was like purgatory, But Tulsk was just like being in hell" ('If I Get An Encore,' Christy Moore).
John Horan's various contributions at Congress last weekend suggest that he can be a useful ally for the next director general. It is important, though, that he articulate the deep-seated problems we face honestly.
I was in San Francisco last week for the hospice. You get into a taxi. The taxi driver beams a bright smile: "Hi, how are you today?" You walk into a shop. Again, that wide, white smile: "Hi, how are you today?" You pass the hotel lobby, they chorus: "Hi, how are you today?" It's like being surrounded by young Mormons.
Before I went to Trinity, I had heard some of the stories about the Sigerson Cup from the older Derry lads but hadn't really believed them.
I arrived into the hall on Saturday for the Foreglen's gala night and bumped into Gerry Donnelly.
I am constantly advising clubs about disciplinary offences and CCC investigations. It is a depressing thing to see the contempt in which volunteers, players and clubs are held by the authorities.
I was at an event in Croke Park on Thursday evening and afterwards, a group of us were chatting. A St Vincent's man described how he used to bring his son to all the different codes. The soccer bored him stiff. He brought him to Croker to see Derry v Dublin in the league a few years ago, where Derry adopted the Tyrone formation. The child wanted to go home at half-time. He now plays...
Páraic Duffy's final report sets out all the many things the new director-general needs to do to save the GAA, somewhat overlooking the fact that he had 10 years to do them himself.
One of my earliest sporting memories is of my father getting his nose broken with the Dungiven hurlers. The match was in the early 1970s against Kilrea. I went to every game with him in our bright green Lada, bought from Brendan Campbell in Coalisland. Brendan only sold two types of Lada: A green one, or an orange one. Russian made, it had black plastic seats that burned when it was...
The new GAA director-general's first meeting around the conference table on Level 5 in Croke Park will be like the meeting of the heads of the five families in The Godfather. They take their seats, Don Corleone shakes his head sadly and says, "How did things ever get so bad?"
The fundamental task of the new Director General will be to redraw the boundary between the ideals of the GAA and the commercial world.
As Jim Dennison from the Simon Community outlined the extent of the poverty and homelessness in Belfast, the younger players were clearly taken aback. Jim had joined the street sleepers at Cornmarket in the city to thank the group. I asked him to talk about the scale of the problem.
The cycling world was stunned last week by the news that traces of urine have been found in Chris Froome's urine sample. When the critter won his first Tour de France, L'équipe wrote that it was the first time the race had been won by an X-ray on a bicycle. A stark reminder of the dysfunction of professional sport.
The lad on his arse in the photograph, wearing the blue hoodie, shorts and blue trainers, is Sean McManus. The final whistle of the 2014 Féile has just been blown. Sean's Rossa team have just won it, the Belfast side beating the Cork champions after a nine-point turnaround in the final 90 seconds. It is one of the most emotional things I ever experienced.
I was chatting with two old fellows from the Moy after the final whistle in the Ulster intermediate club final last Sunday.
Paul McGinley has been helping me with a fundraising project for a hospice. He texted me from California on Friday morning with stunning pictures of Cypress Point golf course as he played it, each image more beautiful than the last. "Amazing place Joe. I've played it before but was so caught up in preparing for my game and playing that I never really saw it. Never drank in the sheer beauty."
Slaughtneil Robert Emmets held their gala dinner last Saturday night. There were over 800 people there. "It's like the Third Reich," said Gerry Donnelly.
The elderly Jewish comedian Barry Cryer tells a story about making a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It is the holiest public place in the Jewish tradition, believed to be built on foundations laid by King Solomon himself. I have been there. People line up in queues, then when it is their turn to pray, they kneel or stand, often with their foreheads against the wall, praying.
"Get f***ed into them lads, f***ed into them." The man beside me in the main stand at Queen's playing fields is shouting and waving his fists.
Walking into an under 10 match last Sunday morning with my youngest boy, he said, "I can't wait to dummy somebody today." After his first dummy (a more or less perfect rendition of the half-Mulligan), he popped the ball over the bar, walked back to his position, turned to look at me and winked. Life doesn't get any better.
Kerry has long been the main supplier of dull GAA autobiographies, and this one is no exception. There are a lot of stories I could tell but yerra, it might not go down too well with my sponsors. As Michael Healy-Rae said to me when he was asking if he could get a complimentary copy, "sure Gooch, you can keep the stories for the second volume."
I was out in Dublin the Friday night before the All-Ireland and bumped into some of the Irish rugby boys in Rob Kearney's club, Lemon & Duke.
I've been in Omagh over the past month, defending a young man from Derry city charged with taking part in a rebel training camp in Syria. 'Paddy Jihadi' the tabloids call him. Or 'Eamonn of Arabia'.
Sitting around with the other football pundits on The Sunday Game before the final programme of the year last Sunday night, we were shooting the breeze, when I asked: "Hey Gooch, why was I not invited to this testimonial?"
This was the worst of their many agonising defeats. Mayo did everything they needed to do except win it. This time, none of them were shirking despite being hit with an early sucker punch from the brilliant Con O'Callaghan.
I was at a function for hospice on Thursday night in Dublin. Brian O'Driscoll said: "It's a free one for Mayo on Sunday. No one expects them to win. It's their best ever chance." Which would be true, if Dublin were not managed by Jim Gavin.
Dublin might as well have been playing against traffic cones last Sunday. Like the trainer who had set out the cones for the warm-up, the Tyrone players looked as though they had been set down into their 13 defensive positions. While they rigidly stuck to their one-dimensional plan, Dublin played football. And when the Dubs scored a goal after a few minutes, the game was over.
This could have been Armageddon for Tyrone. Lucky for them, it was only annihilation. Tyrone played like blue-arsed flies slowly dying in a sunroom. Dublin were as relaxed as a man washing his car on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Tyrone are the least-loved, most-feared team in the game and Mickey Harte will be happy with that. "Ruthless man, very ruthless man," said Owen Mulligan during the week, looking back on his own decapitation from the squad. "Mickey never even rung me, which hurt me a lot."
Mayo finally got fed up with heroic defeats in replays. The most entertaining team in Irish sport over the last decade didn't bring Kerry back into the game yesterday. Some time after last Sunday's match, they clicked that they were a better team than Kerry. Yesterday, they played with conviction throughout, so they won easily.
With two minutes to go and Kerry a point up, it looked as if another movement was to be added to Mayo's symphony of sorrowful songs.
If you did a nationwide poll today just as the ball is about to be thrown in, 99 per cent of people would go for Kerry. Because they are Kerry, and because they will play with conviction. And because Mayo - as happened in 2014 over the course of a two-game series when they should have won both days - have so often lost their nerve. Kingdomitis is an affliction that only a few teams...
With the advent of the Crap 25 next summer, the GAA hierarchy continues to steer us towards the end of the GAA as a community organisation. Or rather, hang onto the steering wheel as it freewheels downhill.
It couldn't have been any easier for either Dublin or Tyrone yesterday if the GAA had given them a bye into the semi-final. The day began in a welter of boredom. Before throw-in I asked a Tyrone man beside me for a look at his programme. "Take it Joe," he said, "I only got it to see who the ref is. Armagh have no chance."
In an entertaining column last week about his conversion to punditry, Colm Cooper wrote: "What sort of game have I gotten myself into? It's just been four months and it's been an eye-opener. At times, I've wondered am I cut out for it?"
I love lobs. They make me happy. They remind us that great, memorable sport, in the end, is an art, not a dull science. The brilliant documentary Red Army tells the story of the Magnificent Five, the iconic Soviet Union ice hockey team that won two successive Olympic golds.
I watched Down in March this year in Celtic Park with a growing sense of bemusement. The previous weekend they had won (courtesy of an outrageous fluked goal) their first match in league and championship for two full years against Meath in Navan. Not a great Derry team, we knew, but still, a good contest was in the offing.
The linesman at Semple Stadium must have forgotten that Brian Cody pushed him. Lucky that the linesman in O'Moore Park remembered after the game that Diarmuid Connolly had pushed him. Forgetful types, these sideline officials.
I went to Roscommon on Friday night to a fundraiser for the Boyle club. It was held in the parish hall, which looked like the Ballroom of Romance. It still has the old projector hatch and projector from when they used to show Jaws and Star Wars to an enthralled audience five years after they came out. I have never charged for GAA stuff and always say "a few pints of stout is perfect".
Diarmuid Connolly is not a bear. He is a natural footballer and hurler who - like Messi or Maradona - finds magic in what he does.
"I found Leverkusen's style of play very interesting as Roger was one of the coaches whose approach I was studying closely. They were one of the few football teams that play very direct, very intense football predicated on intensity. It is about asking questions of the opposition and trying to overwhelm them and never allowing them to settle. And I was drawn to that."
If you are not familiar with tyronetribulations.com ('News from among the bushes') then you should be. It is a blog full of angst over the travails of Tyrone footballers since 2008.
Last Sunday morning, Men of Sperrin answered the call. It was probably the toughest sportive ever conceived, starting with Benbradagh, the best-kept secret in world cycling. Paddy Heaney helped to organise it for Derry GAA, and Paddy is a student of pain, amongst other things.
I stood on the stage of the Gaiety a fortnight ago as the Riverdance cast were going through their warm-ups. Watching them bouncing into the air up to my ear, stretching as though their legs were rubber, faces shining with health, I felt like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. Sadly, for me, it will take more than 3-in-One Oil.
As Mrs Merton might have asked, why on earth would Kerry fanatic Pat Spillane want Dublin's star forward banned for the championship?
An O’Neill’s football, signed ‘DUNGLOE GAA’, was found last week by Uist native Arthur Heyes as he walked along a beach in the Outer Hebrides (check out the story on @bbcchampionship). The ball had journeyed almost 300 miles from its home in Donegal.
The CCCC is the GAA's prosecution service. I call them 'Parking Pataweyo'.
Asking me to write a preview of the Senior Football Championship is a bit like asking Bad Santa to write a piece on the magic of Christmas.
The new St Canice's Dungiven social club was officially opened last Saturday, and to mark the occasion we had a state visit. Prince Philip was unavailable. The man who once asked a group of Aborigines during a visit to Australia, "Do you still throw spears at each other?" has retired from public life. So we had to settle for a member of the Kerry Royal family, Prince Tomás of the ó Sé...
Two dives last weekend. Two more Premier League penalties.
On Easter Sunday, I was a judge at the Knockmore club’s ‘Stars In Your Eyes’ as 750 people crammed into the Hotel Ballina for a night of hilarity.
I arrived into Croke Park last Saturday, and saw the Dublin kit van parked outside their changing room. The back doors were open. I looked in as I passed and had to do a double-take. Johnny Cooper was unloading the van.
When someone like Colm Cooper retires we tend to lose the run ourselves. It is easy to be swept away in the sentimental avalanche. It is a bit like the death of Lady Di. Any criticisms may cause a hysterical reaction. Even if you hadn't heard of her, she was "the People's Princess" (Tony Blair) and it would be downright unpatriotic not to weep publicly.
Watching Tyrone and Mayo labouring soullessly through a robotic 70 minutes last Sunday reminded me of Eamonn Sweeney's immortal line. Watching modern Gaelic football, he said "is like watching sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorder."
At Barney McFadden's funeral some years ago, Martin McGuinness, who gave the graveside oration, told a great story. The graveyard that day was a sea of bomber jackets, for Barney was a man of the people: A communitarian, and a GAA man, and the sacristan in Saint Eugene's Cathedral, and an unofficial job recruitment agency for the young people in this impoverished area.
I caught up with the Shane Williams-Michael Murphy sport-swapping documentary last week. When Williams, once the world's number one rugby player, took to the field for his debut against Convoy, the blizzard was so heavy you could barely see the ball for the snow.
We'll start this week with a little quiz: 1. Which GAA leader said this to the Irish Independent in November 2015? "We have taken a decision that we do not want any more inter-county games. Round-robin or group stages - whether in provinces or outside - would increase the number of games, so any proposal that includes them will not be looked at any further. We are simply not going to squeeze the clubs any more. On the contrary, we are trying to free up more time for them."
It is no surprise that Aogán 'lifeblood of the Association' Ó Fearghail has rejected the lifeblood of the Association's request to address Congress this weekend.
It is no surprise that Aogan ‘lifeblood of the Association’ O Fearghail has rejected the lifeblood of the association’s request to address Congress this weekend.
On the occasion of the release of the Trainspotting sequel. With gratitude to author Irvine Welsh and his original masterpiece . . .
We will look back some day and say that the current era was the most depressing in the history of the GAA. We're making money, but the rest is dysfunctional. The fun has evaporated. The quality of the game has nosedived. Attendances have collapsed.
At the invitation of a friend, I attended a senior county team forum last Saturday. It was a real eye-opener.
David Preece tells a great story about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Preece was the Aberdeen goalie when they played a pre-season tournament game against an Ajax team that had the young Swede at centre-forward. The match was barely started when a ball was slid through between the centre-halves and Ibrahimovic was through one-on-one. Preece advanced, and as he readied himself, the ball was casually looped over his head and into the back of the net. One-nil Ajax.
Human beings are in trouble. The notion of independent individuals thinking for ourselves and being able to express ourselves in a real way is under sustained attack. Robots are replacing us at an alarming rate. They are highly efficient, don't sleep, obey their masters, and don't drink or smoke. They don't want to make love or war and they are entirely unemotional. They don't get tired. They are absolutely punctual.
When I was in Trinity, I played on the Sigerson team with the O'Sullivan brothers from Cahirciveen, Seanie and Diarmuid. Sigerson was hot and heavy in those days, and attrition was the name of the game. Both boys were purists when they arrived in Dublin, and quickly had to be schooled in the dark arts.
Mickey Harte said during the week on BBC Radio Ulster that Gaelic football should be an exhibition game at the next Olympics. If his Tyrone team are playing, it'll be the last time the Japanese go.
The year 2016 ended on a triumphant note, with Kilmacow's minor footballers winning the Kilkenny 'B' championship after a last-gasp score brought them a 3-9 to 3-8 triumph against Mooncoin. "What do you think of that, Joe Brolly?" they tweeted. "I didn't even know there was an 'A' championship."
Man goes to his mother's funeral. The service is being held in a funeral parlour. As the vicar is about to start, the man says: "Vicar, what's the wifi code?" The indignant cleric says: "Your mother is barely in her coffin!" Man says: "Is that all lower case?"
The Dungiven 1991 championship-winning team was honoured at the St Canice's dinner dance last Saturday night. Beforehand, everyone gathered in the lower bar in the clubhouse to watch the tape of that fabled game.
"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed - for lack of a better word - is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit… And greed will save that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."
Just over 20 years ago, the people of Slaughtneil decided to create a community strategy covering all aspects of life. Social cohesion and Irish identity were the foundation stones.
I was in Owen Mulligan's bar for the first time on Friday night. Ever see the Bacardi Breezer ads? Well, Bacardi Breezer ads with a twist. Amidst the throngs, there was a booth full of ravaged-looking older men playing cards.
Last Wednesday was a great day for bricklayers. Shortly after the result was announced, I got a text from one of the Craigs from Dungiven saying "Hi sir, you wouldn't have a phone number for that Trump man, we want to put in a tender for that wall."
On Tuesday, I received an invitation from the prestigious Mayo Weather Institute (@MayoWeather): "Dear Joe, would you like to be the keynote speaker at our inspirational holistic weather digi-summit on the side of Croagh Patrick in February?"
In Kieran Donaghy's autobiography What Do You Think of That? (aren't some words missing?), he credits me as the driving force behind his epic 2014 season. His life coach. His motivational guru. In the book, he describes his "fury" at a column I wrote (Headlined: 'Catch a falling Star') and how this was his constant inspiration in his return to the top.
We were sitting in the changing room before the first round of the Derry championship in 1997 against Glenullen when Geoffrey Varney, a supporter, came through the door not exactly sober, his eyes flashing danger.
On Monday night, the under 16s were a man short for their training game, so I togged out and did the needful. We were working on the nuances of scoring goals, positional sense, creating space, long kicking, drawing markers away and the four primary dummies. These are, of course, The Colm McFadden, The Bernie Flynn, The Half Mulligan and The Full Mulligan.
When Floyd Patterson defended his heavyweight world title, he came with a false moustache and wig in his bag, so that he could slip out the back entrance unnoticed afterwards. Stephen Cluxton would understand that.
After the lights went down in the studio and the cameras stopped rolling yesterday evening, myself and Colm O'Rourke grabbed our laptops and began writing our Sunday Independent columns. Pat got up to leave. "You not writing a piece for tomorrow Pat?" "I'll let you into a secret boys. I wrote two pieces yesterday. One for a Dublin win. One for Mayo." With that, he winked, and strolled...