Sunday 21 October 2018

Comment - The show should really have been called Ireland's Most Popular Sporting Moment

Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Hold on to your hats everyone, we are about to discover Ireland's Greatest Sporting Moment.

RTE's quest to find the greatest moment has unearthed great soundbites, sparked rows, allowed to reminisce about spine-tingling instants that enthralled us but will it actually definitively answer the question the showing is asking? I doubt it.

Had the show been called Ireland's Most Popular Sporting Moment or the Sporting Moment The Majority of Irish People Cared About it would fit more accurately with the structure of the show.

By separating the the four episodes into the 1960s/1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, RTE have avoided the debacle they faced when they looked at the Top 20 GAA Moments in 2005.

That show ran through the top moments and allowed viewers to vote for their favourite. It included iconic moments like Seamus Darby's incredible goal that stopped Kerry's five-in-a-row bid in 1982 or Mikey Sheehy's outrageous lob over the hapless Paddy Cullen in the 1978 All-Ireland final.

What won? A Michael Donnellan run in the 1998 All-Ireland win over Kildare. He picked the ball up on his own 21-metre line, exchanged a one-two with Kevin Walsh and dished the ball off to Derek Savage, who passed to Sean Óg de Paor who kicked a nice point from 23-4 yards straight in front of the goals.

There's no doubting it was a fine move and team score but it was just the lightning fast Donnellan illustrating his athleticism and his ability to give and receive handpasses.

Some people may watch this and not in agreement at the judgement . I was scratching my head.

The format of the latest attempt to engage with the country's sporting public has given RTE more editorial control.

A shortlist of five moments was chosen for each episode with the winner qualifying for tonight's finale.

There was some lively debate surrounding the inclusion of some moments at the expense of others.

Lively debate surrounding Barry McGuigan's 1985 world title triumph and how it made it into the lineup for the 1980s landed Joe Brolly and Eamon Dunphy in hot water.

Dunphy believed that Barney Eastwood, McGuigan's canny coach, deserved huge credit for the success and that McGuigan's rival Eusebio Pedroza was 'over the hill' and Brolly questioned McGuigan's skillset.

"Barney [Eastwood, McGuigan's manager] had lined up a succession of easy fights for him - I think 17 or 18 - to ensure that he became respected enough to become a contender," Dunphy said

"Then he found Perdoza, who was over the hill, spent all the day in a sauna and really wasn't fit to fight. McGuigan went out and as Barney said, bitterly, to me afterwards, 'It took him 15 rounds to do something he should have done in five rounds.' That's the inside story and that's the true story."

It was a very engaging and interesting chat involving two men who were knowledgeable on the subject.

The next episode began with Des Cahill saying this: "In our first programme on the 80s, we featured Barry McGuigan's wonderful achievement in becoming world champion.

"Now the conversations that followed were robust and they strayed somewhat from the great moment that we set out to mark.

"For that we would like to apologise to Barry and his legion of supporters. It wasn't in the spirit of what the programme was designed to do and lots of you let us know your feelings. We're happy to recognise that."

So what exactly is the spirit of the programme?

If you apologise for lively debate then why have experts involved at all.

Any choice is going to impact people differently, any opinion is going to split viewers, some moments are going to affect spectators and others will cause them to shrug their shoulders. It's all in the spirit of debate.

If RTE wanted to highlight the greatest moments in Irish sport then just show them to us. Why the need to distill them down to one?

They were all great in their own right and affected those involved and the rest of us who were on tenterhooks differently.

I love watching the exploits of Sonia O'Sullivan, the Charlton era, Munster's win over the All Blacks and Padraig Harrington's major triumphs but I don't see the need to put one on a pedestal.

RTE are engaging with people through their social media platforms and I'm sure voting is strong but what they will end up with is Ireland's Most Popular Sporting Moment but maybe not the greatest.

Online Editors

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