Well, it may feel a bit more like February than May this morning but the championship season is once again upon us and so too the delights and annoyances of RTÉ’s The Sunday Game. I think it’s fair to say that we got more of the latter than the former on last night’s opening programme.
I know it’s not a very original observation to make but it’s obvious that the GAA really needs to get its act together as to how it launches the championship. Every year, it starts off in the same limp-wristed, apologetic kind of way and to have only a single match on the opening Sunday makes no sense at all at all. With such a threadbare amount of action to poke over, it was hardly worthwhile for RTÉ to start TSG yesterday and the poor fare on offer from Ballybofey made it inevitable that the programme’s pundits – who are always a crabby lot at the best of times – would go OTT with their criticisms on what they’d seen. This is hardly the kickstart the GAA would like the championship to receive but, then again, it seems to be how the championship gets going most years so one can only assume that they won’t be overly bothered by it either.
I must admit that I didn’t see a huge amount of the live coverage yesterday but I saw all of the programme later in the evening where Spillane and our Kev were both painful to listen to with their ill-focused bleating about the quality of the match (which, admittedly, looked pretty poor). Aside from all the pissing and moaning about the ultra-defensive nature of the game, they did little to analyse the few talking points, such as Donegal’s point-which-looked-like-a-wide and Mark McHugh’s clear overcarrying (at least seven steps by my reckoning) in the lead-up to the game’s only goal. Instead, we had Spillane saying exactly what he says every time a game isn’t to his liking, while Kev was simply lost for words in trying to come up with anything of note about the action. Dessie tried his best to gee the pair of sourpusses up but even his bonhomie failed to get them going.
The most interesting part of the night was where Pet and Kev were jiyned by a panel of worthies – Jack O’Shea, Derek Kavanagh, Oisin McConville, Barney Rock and Liam McHale – to preview the championship. (Incidentally, that line-up meant that the town of Ballina had two slots on a ‘national’ panel of seven, a fact that worried me until An Spailpín put me to rights by pointing me in the direction of this). The seven got to vote on who they thought would win what dish ear and we got a resounding 6-1 thumbs-up to win Connacht (Oisin McConville was the dissenting voice, going for Galway). It was Cork 4, Kerry 3 in the vote for All-Ireland champions but two of those votes for Cork came from Spillane and Jacko, which made you wonder why our two lads didn’t muddy the waters a bit themselves when the votes for the Connacht championship were being cast.