Voices on The Sunday Game are not the ‘letter of the GAA law’

Voices on The Sunday Game are not the ‘letter of the GAA law’

By Peter McNamara

Everybody, it seems, is having a cut off of The Sunday Game crew, be it those on the live transmission or the personnel tasked with compiling the highlights package.

Voices on The Sunday Game are not the ‘letter of the GAA law’

Joe Brolly, Colm O'Rouke and Pat Spillane in action earlier this year.

The Sunday Game, the entity, is an institution.

It is a timeless jewel in our culture, essentially.

Brian McGuigan, for example, while sitting in on the highlights show last Sunday week illustrated how people across the island can hang on every word of the panel as if it is ‘sacrosanct’.

And the Tyrone man had a point.

However, the three-time All-Ireland SFC winner made an even more pertinent call in the next breath when he suggested viewers do not have to take the opinions of the panel as the ‘letter of the GAA law’.

Yet, the musings of Joe Brolly and co seem to generate just as much debate and column inches as matches do.

Social media is dictating a lot of what is considered sports news these days with anything remotely thought of as controversial blasted out across Twitter and Facebook immediately.

This was understandable as a fresh take on all things GAA but it is getting tiresome very, very quickly.

To see more articles written and air-time afforded to commentary on the commentary rather than on the games themselves is ridiculous at this stage.

Do people really find Brolly referring to a match as ‘s***e’ at half-time more relevant and newsworthy than the game itself?

I, and maybe I am alone in this, would rather scroll through my social media timelines and see Tweets and posts at half-time, about how and why Mayo’s attack was alarmingly disjointed in Croke Park on Sunday, for instance, and not how Brolly has used the word ‘shite’ as if a groundbreaking phenomenon.

Witty references are one thing, such as Tomás Ó Sé saying, ‘I’ve been telling people for years I wasn’t the dirtiest of the Ó Sés’ while discussing his brother Marc’s black card against Tyrone last Sunday week.

However, the essence of what everybody is tuning into their TV sets in the first place for is being diluted, and increasingly overshadowed by, what are often, throwaway comments by the panellists.

RTÉ, surely, are content with this, even if they would not say so in public, as it means The Sunday Game is front and centre of GAA discussion from Sunday night until Tuesday evening at the earliest before we usually begin to start thinking about the following weekend’s Championship offerings.

Yet, it is getting tedious with the public latching on to virtually any semblance of controversy even in a pundit’s tone.

In saying that, Ciarán Whelan, Kevin McStay and Tomás Ó Sé did little to sustain the credibility of the programme’s argument against the likes of Tyrone’s recent misdoings by not being equally harsh on Dublin and Mayo on Sunday night.

Kevin McStay and Tomás Ó Sé have been co-panellists several times this year.

Whelan is an excellent pundit and one of the very few, alongside McStay, correctly more interested in evaluating a contest rather than attempting, consciously or otherwise, to engineer an unnecessary sideshow.

However, to all and sundry it seemed as if they were a tad more blasé regarding some of the actions for which Tyrone and others are regularly nailed in the media for.

And by doing that, albeit obviously unintentionally, the panel leaves itself wide open to criticism from all angles.

Even the likes of Declan O’Sullivan and Paddy Bradley Tweeted their frustrations with the perceived inconsistencies between remarks made regarding Tyrone’s wrongdoings and those seen at headquarters at the weekend.

Nevertheless, this can easily be avoided in the future.

Basically, if Cork, for example, were contesting a potentially fiery All-Ireland semi-final you wouldn’t have a Leesider pencilled in as a panellist on that occasion.

And the same should apply across the board.

Subconsciously, the thought-process of that panellist is bound to be impeded by their own background.

From first-hand experience, it is never easy, although it still has to be done in my opinion, to be totally frank about the performance of a player or team or their misdemeanours if you have a working relationship with them via your media duties.

Therefore, The Sunday Game backroom team, led superbly it must be said by genuine GAA folk, may need to consider guarding against indirect accusations of bias by ex-players and the general public by keeping the panel as neutral geographically as possible from here on.

For instance, why not have voices from Down, Galway and Tipperary mulling over next Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final replay rather than any pundits from Dublin or Mayo?

Or even take from those already on RTÉ’s list of analysts not from either of the counties represented?

Of course, it is probably rarer than it seems that the panellists working on a given occasion are fellow county men of the teams involved.

Still, to try to contain the potential social media hammerings down the line such a subtle rule of thumb will go a long way to minimising further questions of ‘credibility’.

The Sunday Game is one of the most watched programmes each week in Ireland and beyond.

Let’s keep it that way for the right reasons.

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