I haven’t been all that well tuned in to what’s been happening over the last few days, what with my eldest daughter’s First Communion on Saturday – with all the excitement, I even managed to forget my mini-league predictions for yesterday’s matches – but, from the bit of it that I saw, yesterday’s low-key action wasn’t exactly the kind of championship fare that would set the pulses racing.
As seems to happen every year, the first few championship weekends don’t involve the kind of clashes that demand 100% attention. Our opening match over the ocean last weekend came and went without anyone except ourselves and the Yanks noticing and yesterday’s two matches weren’t what you could term as blood and thunder encounters either. But at least The Sunday Game is back on the telly though, somewhat like the economy, things have changed a bit there since last summer and I’m not sure it’s for the best either.
I had half an eye on the live stuff yesterday afternoon but didn’t tune fully into Pet’s return to the analytical side of the house. You can see what RTE are up to here – they have three argumentative individuals assessing the soccer, ditto for the rugby so clearly having two doesn’t do it for the, loike, Gaelic stuff either – but I’m not sure this particular ménage-à-trois will function all that well. They obviously want Spillane and Brolly to act the bollocks – which shouldn’t be a stretch for either, you would have thought – with O’Rourke playing the straight man so that the panel has the same kind of dynamic that its soccer and rugby equivalents have on the same channel.
I think that, like all other sports broadcasters, RTE are putting too much emphasis on creating a circus in the studio which they believe can mirror or, perhaps, outshine the event they’re supposed to be covering. That’s all fine as it goes but personally, I think that half-time is better spent doing something a bit more useful (like having a piss, for example) than it is listening to people who are going out of their way to be obnoxious both to each other and about the match they’re watching.
The other impact, of course, of this bout of musical chairs is that Pet is no longer anchoring the Sunday night show. I must admit that I’m a bit saddened by his departure from this role because – I know I’m likely to be in the minority here but not to worry – I thought he was doing okay there. Sure, talking about counties called Meat might have got on people’s nerves but I kinda liked the willing amateur in him and his often tortured syntax made you forget that this was the same guy who used to be such a prick when he was on the other side of the couch.
Unlike the live programme, the chat that takes place around the highlights is largely what makes the Sunday night programme worth watching. In this regard, Pet had a great talent for spurring others into saying something meaningful and this always made for lively discussions on the programme. As a result of his constant goading, for example, Anthony Tohill mutated from being a completely wooden dork to being one of the most astute and likeable analysts on the circuit. Our Kev was always up for a bit of verbal jousting as well and was never slow to remind Pet, for example, about the regal passage that his native county enjoys to the business end of things thanks to the lopsided nature of the championship.
I don’t think Dessie is the worst choice in the world as his replacement – I mean, Jim Carney and Michael Lyster did the job for years for God’s sake – and, if you ignore that big, fat face of his (this is where you really need your 32 inch screen), you can appreciate that he’s better on the telly than he is on the radio where his inarticulate mumblings make you wonder how on earth he managed to get inside the door at Montrose the first day ever.
It’s obvious that Dessie’s style is going to be very different from Pet’s and last night he was playing it as low-key as the action on the field. Anthony Tohill and Tony Davis (the latter won the Dish Ear Award by a country mile) didn’t require too much prompting to do their stuff but Dessie will have to mix it a bit more with some of the duller panellists (that lad from Meat, for example) or else the Sunday night programme isn’t going to be all that interesting.
The other noteworthy thing about last night was that a good 80% of it was taken up with a load of tedious shite that was mainly to do with the 125th anniversary of the GAA. The only proper highlights they showed was from the match in Brewster Park – the one that had, of course, already been transmitted live earlier on – and they only carried a very brief report (which included, at most, about two minutes of highlights) on the Louth-Carlow game that had taken place at Parnell Park. It wouldn’t have been too much to ask to devote ten or fifteen minutes to show the proper highlights from that one – this is meant to be a highlights programme, isn’t it? There was also some Christy Ring action on over the weekend (we won this time and all – Club Mayo Dublin have a detailed report on that stunning win over Westmeath) but that didn’t even get onto the radar last night. As ever, RTE’s willingness to cover the subject matter properly is very much open to question.
Instead, we got what seemed like hours of old guff, with pre-recorded stuff using fancy graphics to make up for a lack of content and various worthies – including Christy Cooney and Padraic Duffy – being wheeled in for a succession of cosy chats. The programme also included two sets of interviews with greats of the game that appeared to have been recorded in some kind of a bordello. No wonder those ageing titans were all smiling in an oddly uncomfortable manner …
It’s easy to forgive all that filler stuff on a night like last night when there wasn’t too much action to cover, although, as already noted, they didn’t make all that much effort to cover adequately what action there was. If, however (as I fear we are), we’re going to be treated to inane rubbish like Pet traipsing off to clubs around the country exhorting them to put the foot back into football (which, by the way, if he’s in any way serious about, he should start by having a quiet word with the Kerry senior team – when did you last see them give a foot pass as they move the ball up the field?), then we could be in for a rocky ride in the months ahead.