Tuesday 20 August 2019

Michael Verney: 'Sunday Game rants were laced with ego and nothing but self-indulgent nonsense'

Donal Óg Cusack has come in for criticism following his latest appearance on The Sunday Game. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donal Óg Cusack has come in for criticism following his latest appearance on The Sunday Game. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

THE only issues hurling disciples should have been discussing, after another spell-binding weekend was the extraordinary action on the pitch but, instead, they have been giving their views on what could only be described as self-indulgent nonsense.

In his post-match debrief, Davy Fitzgerald was quizzed about the criticism of Wexford’s sweeper system during his three-year reign. However, that wasn’t the story of Sunday’s epic encounter as the Leinster champions died with their boots on, falling to a better Tipperary side.

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Yet, ‘The Sunday Game’ in their wisdom dedicated ten minutes of their flagship evening show to former Cork star Dónal Óg Cusack and ex-Waterford boss Derek McGrath highlighting the benefits of such systems and their place in the modern game.

This simply wasn’t the time or place to do so and former Tipp goalkeeper Brendan Cummins was a mere passenger as the pair – ably assisted by presenter Des Cahill – went to town on the topic.

Their sermons bore little relevance to the highlights which preceded the conversation and the match footage which they were supposed to be dissecting for the viewer.

To hear Cusack launch a staunch defence of the sweeper system before comparing its critics to “part of the last remnants of British culture on these islands” was both laughable and confusing.

Exactly who Cusack is having a pop at, and the reasons why, is unknown but it left viewers in no doubt that the show wasn’t about the game, but about the personalities in the studio discussing it.

A perfect opportunity presented itself for respected figures to highlight everything that hurling fans love about the game – as well as the controversial decisions which shaped the weekend’s games – but it was missed spectacularly.

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British colonialism has got nothing to do with the way a team plays and what people think of that style and that segment was laced with ego.

Drawing a line between John Bull – the national personification of England as historically shown in political cartoons – and those who refuse to welcome sweepers and tactical changes was nonsensical to say the least.

McGrath’s introduction as a pundit is a major plus with his in-depth analysis and knowledge of what’s involved in an inter-county set-up invaluable to those watching and hoping to be enlightened.

References to his five years at the Déise helm give viewers an insight into the inner sanctum but his repeated attempts to justify the system, which he implemented, and defend criticism is growing tiresome. He has no need to do so and it’s time to move on.

Recalling the coverage after the 2016 All-Ireland final on ‘The Sunday Game’ and how their “system breakdown/meltdown” was picked as a moment of the year by a fellow pundit was another sign of grievances being aired.

That comes hot on the heels of an explosive exchange between Cusack and former Offaly hurler and current pundit Michael Duignan in March following the Faithful’s relegation to the league’s third tier.

Without name-checking anyone on ‘League Sunday’, Cusack noted that “some influential voices have not been helping the Offaly cause to stay with the trends and stay with the times”, to which Duignan took umbrage and expressed it via Twitter.

The sooner they get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing – analysing the action on the pitch – and not sending viewers to bed every Sunday night feeling frustrated, the better.

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