Tuesday 16 January 2018

Martin Breheny: RTE owe Davy an apology

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

SHOCK, horror, disgust. Public sensitivities were, apparently, so grievously wounded by a GAA manager displaying emotion on the sideline during a tight, tense championship game that RTE investigators felt compelled to act.

Hell, he had even used bad language, an offence so rare in our lovely land that the Moral Mammies of Montrose wept on behalf of a scandalised nation.

But, bravely shouldering the huge burden of responsibility associated with being the national broadcaster, they dried their tears and instructed 'The Sunday Game' to 'investigate' (RTE's word) the urgent case of Davy Fitzgerald and the few choice words he uttered during the Waterford-Clare game in Thurles on Sunday.

They had no choice, you see. The tweeting classes had demanded the investigation and, editorial judgment being what it is nowadays, there's no banality inane enough to be ignored, no half-witted gossip daft enough to be zapped.

According to the 'The Sunday Game', people were unhappy with a few colourful words uttered by Fitzgerald, in which case it might have been deemed imprudent to further ruffle delicate feathers before they retired for the night but, hey, hard-nosed investigators don't flinch.

So RTE played the clip again, just in case it hadn't registered fully with the afternoon audience during the live screening. Besides, new viewers were now tuned in and they had to be fully informed of what Fitzgerald had said but only after the Moral Mammies of Montrose had bleeped out the offending words. Public service obligations and all that!

Presenter Des Cahill looked uncomfortable fronting the 'investigation' and panellist Liam Sheedy quickly weighed in to point out that most managers have their moments on the sideline. He also mentioned the massive contribution Davy Fitz makes to hurling.

"There are a huge amount of pluses about what he brings to the game," said Sheedy supportively.

Co-panellist Eddie Brennan looked as if he was about to explode into laughter at any moment, presumably at the notion that something as irrelevant as a manager uttering a few frothy words was up for 'investigation.'


It might all appear pretty harmless but, in reality, it's not.

For 'The Sunday Game' to hype up a minor incident, using Twitter-trash as a justifying reason, is not only editorially indefensible, it's also unfair. And while Sheedy and Brennan brought their street-savvy balance to proceedings, the damage had been done.

In my view RTE owes Fitzgerald an apology. Was he the first manager in any televised sport to use choice language? Of course not. Yet, how often have RTE -- or other broadcasters either -- highlighted verbal indiscretions?

Does RTE have microphones stuck so close to Giovanni Trapattoni that they pick up his every word and return to them later? Do they eavesdrop on Declan Kidney? And, I suspect, they would be mighty careful about highlighting utterances from the likes of Brian Cody, Pat Gilroy, Jack O'Connor, Conor Counihan and various others.

No suggestion of bad language from any of them, but I suspect they wouldn't take too kindly to 'The Sunday Game' revisiting any comments made during a game.

Understandably so, because despite its high public profile, the sideline is actually quite a private place.

In case it's forgotten, Davy Fitzgerald is an amateur. His devotion to hurling is all-consuming, whether with county, club or college. From a media viewpoint, he's good to work with, always throwing out lively quotes and never trading in dull platitudes.

In return for that refreshingly honest approach, he was, in my view, shamelessly exploited by RTE while going about his business in the white heat of a championship game.

He was extremely dignified after Sunday's narrow defeat, passing off jibes from some Waterford players in a manner which showed that his affection for the county which gave him his first managerial break is real.

He didn't need to have a few minor verbal outbursts (for God's sake, they happen on every sideline every day) repeated, parsed and analysed on RTE several hours later.

It was cheap, shoddy television which reflected more on RTE's editorial judgment than on Fitzgerald.

It shouldn't have gone unnoticed in Croke Park either. At the very least, they should ask if different standards apply to the coverage of Gaelic Games than to other sports.

As for the Moral Mammies of Montrose, who do they think they're kidding?

Using Twitter-trash to suggest that the country was scandalised by a few throwaway remarks should be seen for what it is -- a cop-out.

And Davy Fitz?

The word 'no' might be first up next time he's asked for an interview by RTE.

Politely put, of course, in case it prompts a nosebleed all around Donnybrook.

Irish Independent

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