Saturday 23 February 2019

Joe Brolly: 'HSE could save fortune on sedatives by having patients watch Galway'

'Watching Galway against Dublin on Saturday night, the thought struck me that the HSE could save a fortune on diazepam by allowing GPs to prescribe videos of Galway matches to patients.' Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
'Watching Galway against Dublin on Saturday night, the thought struck me that the HSE could save a fortune on diazepam by allowing GPs to prescribe videos of Galway matches to patients.' Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Joe Brolly

Joe Brolly

Funny how "the nation's favourite sport" has suddenly disappeared off the radar. Fickle old bunch the rugby-watchers. Last weekend, singing Ireland's Call in bars all around the land, tears streaming down their faces. This weekend, getting ready for Manchester City v Chelsea.

The sentimentality and temporary hysteria engendered in the run-up to the England game reminded me of the reaction to Princess Diana's death or people standing outside Cardiff City's ground last week, weeping, hugging each other, and leaving flowers for a professional soccer player none of them knew. Undeniably a tragedy, but what is the deeper connection?

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This modern tendency towards a general loss of reason makes it difficult to criticise or give a contrary view. In the sporting world, this translates into keeping it light, not making criticisms and generally saying nothing at all, which sheepifies us and ensures the status quo will not be upset. Like politics, PR is replacing reality.

Gaelic football coverage has become excessively safe, and excessively bland, mirroring what is happening to the game itself.

I was at two functions last week, St Enda's on Thursday and Athy GAC's on Friday, where people wanted to talk about how Gaelic punditry is turning into a business meeting. As Martin McEvoy, Athy chairman and Kildare powerhouse, put it in the course of an enjoyably boisterous debate, "If we want to watch business news, we can tune into Bloomberg."

Increasingly, giving an opinion - even about the non-life-and-death matter that is kicking (or hand-passing if you're from Fermanagh) a leather bag of wind about a pitch - feels like treading on dangerous ground.

That said . . .

Watching Galway against Dublin on Saturday night, the thought struck me that the HSE could save a fortune on diazepam by allowing GPs to prescribe videos of Galway matches to patients. These could be posted on YouTube and accessed online at virtually zero cost. Another advantage would be the absence of most of the side effects of diazepam, the only ones in common with following Galway being a) slowing of brain's activity (tick); b) interference with judgement (tick); c) drowsiness (tick)

Their blanket was easily penetrated by Dublin in the league final, then the All-Ireland semi-final, a week after Monaghan had also walked through it at will. Yet Kevin Walsh, who blames "certain pundits" for the drop in attendances at games, is sticking with this formula.

The Dubs duly did exactly what they did last year and long before the final whistle the seagulls were circling. It pains me to ask it Kevin, and maybe it's just me, but do you think maybe, just maybe, it's your system that's boring the pants off people?

The following day, Kerry continued with the heavy blanket defence that has made Kerry football a national treasure. Cavan people - irony does not loom large in their existences - expressed shock on social media and tweeted shots of the entire Kerry 15 inside their own 45. Kerry sneaked it in the end because Seán O'Shea kicked a lot of long frees, but nothing much else happened.

Mick O'Connell said on the wireless last year he no longer goes to the games because "you couldn't watch that sort of thing". Yet some Kerry supporters still go, and RTé reported that after the game the Kerry manager got on the supporters' bus and spoke to them, presumably to apologise.

Next up, Tyrone v Mayo. Under James Horan, Mayo are sticking to their attack-first formula. Last Sunday, Mickey Harte erred by keeping the Omagh pitch at full width and Mayo duly galloped through them at will, their two new wing-forwards, McDonagh and Treacy, getting 1-3 and 0-2 from play respectively, which was more than twice Tyrone's tally from play.

The Tyrone players looked as though they had been rung up for the first time that morning by Harte and told to get to Omagh with their gear as quickly as possible: "I know it's short notice son, but you're starting against Mayo today." Tyrone were like young calves that had been let out on a strange field. After two games where they have managed 0-7 and 0-10, almost all from frees and pot-shots, they look entirely devoid of leadership.

League Sunday on Sunday night. The truth is inconvenient, particularly in relation to inter-county football at this time, so it was glossed over, even by Seán Cavanagh, who for a while last year looked as though he was prepared to speak his mind. The pundits feel under pressure to be cheerleaders for the game.

They feel anything other than sugary support will result in ostracism. "Whatever you say, say nothing" is a dangerous phenomenon that is becoming embedded. Gaelic football is our fun and recreation. It is a release at the weekends. People tune in to disagree, to shout at the telly, to be provoked to think about the big issues, to laugh.

When Gaelic football punditry starts sounding like a business conference, is there any point in it?

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