Wednesday 23 October 2019

Martin Breheny: Sunday Game fooling nobody

Contrived controversies of O'Hara and Brolly failing to land knock-out blows with viewers

Eamonn O'Hara
Eamonn O'Hara

"IS that all you've got, George?"

It's almost 39 years since Muhammed Ali leaned back on the ropes during his world heavyweight title fight with George Foreman in Zaire and whispered the immortal words which warned the champion that his reign could be heading for a swift end.

Minutes later, Foreman was on his back, staring at the stars in the African sky. Foreman's predictable clubbing had yielded zero against a sophisticated resistance because it was nothing more than, well, predictable clubbing.

It had previously battered down weaker defences, fooling Foreman into believing that he could always get away with the same muscle-based routine. He did, until he met someone equally strong and a whole lot smarter.

Recent offerings from 'The Sunday Game' suggest it's suffering from the Foreman syndrome. Hit early with contrived controversies, continue the pummelling for as long as possible and hope that a jaded public remains on the ropes, taking a beating from a hackneyed formula.

Still, it's evident that after two rounds of the latest contest, the contrived controversy remains the tactic of choice.

Of course, Joe has to be right. Why? Because he's always right. Never mind that he sometimes gives the impression of having rehearsed the clever lines in advance, waiting to slot in the appropriate name to suit the occasion.

That can be determined by how the game has gone. It's called the hindsight defence, irrefutable but blatantly transparent.

Was Cavan's win over Armagh such a shock that it had to be down to something Grimley did or didn't do? That certainly appeared to be the Brolly line, yet a check on the facts (inconvenient little irritants for contrived controversy manufacturers) suggest otherwise.

Cavan, ranked 20th on the NFL tables, beat Armagh, who were ranked 14th. Armagh needed to win their last game to avoid joining Cavan in Division 3, suggesting that their graph is still on a downswing.

Meanwhile, Cavan, fresh from winning the Ulster U-21 treble, had home advantage against Armagh.

It was scarcely the shock of the year then that Cavan won. Indeed, the only real surprise was that Grimley felt the need to publicly apologise to the Armagh supporters some days later.

"If you feel I have let you down with the way we approached the game, with reference to our tactics, let me sincerely say sorry for the hurt I have caused," he wrote.

Such contrition, but really, was it necessary? "Let me sincerely say sorry. The hurt I have caused."

For God's sake, Armagh lost a football game; they didn't burn down Breffni Park and ravage Cavan town.

If it weren't for Brolly's comments, would Grimley have issued his statement? If so, then the world has gone stone mad when a manager feels compelled to prostrate himself in front of the public because his team lost a game against broadly equal opposition. If not, then it was another victory for contrived controversy.

Eamonn O'Hara calls for Kevin Walsh's resignation after Sligo's defeat by London.

According to O'Hara, the Sligo players deserve "better training and better quality in terms of tactical awareness."

Walsh, apparently, "has a lot to answer for."

It's a juicy sound byte in Contrived Central, if light on substance.

Under Walsh, Sligo reached the Connacht final twice in three seasons, losing one by a point, the other by two points.

They beat Galway twice and Mayo once in the championship, a most unusual occurrence for Sligo over a two-year period, and they ran Kerry to a point in the qualifiers.

Walsh also took them from Division 4 to Division 2, before dropping back to Division 3, which is a true reflection of their status.

It was only going to be a matter of time until London stunned Connacht opposition.

Their form in the latter stages of the league hinted at that as they ran Limerick – who topped the group – to a point and Leitrim to two points in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Two years ago, London led by two points after 68 minutes against Mayo, who drew level before winning in extra-time in what was James Horan's first championship game as manager.

Since then, Mayo are unbeaten in Connacht and reached the All-Ireland semi-final and final.

However, using the O'Hara logic, Horan's position would have been untenable if they had lost to London.

Contrived controversies can be used to lash any target, but, over time, they become as stale and predictable as Foreman's flailing in the jungle.

If the 'Sunday Game' isn't careful, the public will soon start asking: "Is that all you've got lads"?

Big George can tell them what happens next.

Irish Independent

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