Former RTÉ pundit Joe Brolly has described the ending of his 20-year stint on the Sunday Game as cruel.
The outspoken Derry barrister told the Tommy Tiernan Show that he had rebelled against the hugely popular GAA show being scripted.
Brolly said he was shocked how his years with the national broadcaster ended, in the wake of last year’s drawn All-Ireland final.
“I loved every minute of the Sunday Game, to be palling about with the greats of Gaelic football, and to have the red carpet into Croke Park of a Sunday, and to be part of the national conversation,” Brolly said.
“I was there for 20 years and, genuinely, I loved it and the fun we had. For it to end so abruptly, and, I thought, cruelly, I have to say.
“I’m a big boy and I’m freelance, but, I have to say, I was shocked.”
The former All-Ireland-winning footballer said he felt the Sunday Game had become increasingly scripted in the run-up to last year’s football All-Ireland.
“When I came into the Sunday Game, I loved it,” he said. “We were free to express our opinions. I felt that I could actually talk about football the way the lads in the pub talk about it. No-one in the pub says: ‘Kerry had a 25.7 productivity rating in the first five minutes, but, in fact, that increased to 31.2% in the second quarter of the first-half.’ You would be taken away by the men in white coats.
“It started to become statistics-driven and then we started to get sent scripts, before the All-Ireland football final this year — ‘you’ll say this and then he’ll deal with that and you’ll deal with that’. You know the way you pick out a package of analysis, which I always loved doing, and we were told what to pick out. I rang him and said: ‘You don’t need me, you need a newsreader, you need a narrator.’ Eventually, the ground just shrank under me.”
Brolly said he had great fun on his last appearance on the Sunday Game, for the drawn All-Ireland final, but he wasn’t on the panel for the replay.
“We had a brilliant day and there was some controversy during the game,” he said. “The referee, who is a good pal of mine, gave a decision, and I had a bit of a blast at it.
“It was good fun. I went on the Dublin side for it. You have got to throw in the odd hand grenade. I can imagine people on their sofas, some clapping and enjoying, some ready to tear their hair out.
“Then, I got a series of warnings after that came. For example, I was told that ‘our position in RTÉ is probably untenable now — because, at 11 minutes past three, you said to Pat Spillane “would you stop patting my arm?” ’ I said: ‘Have you lost your fucking mad marbles?’ Me and Pat are like an old married couple.”
He still coaches underage footballers in Belfast, using some unorthodox methods. To get his team to score goals, he places a blow-up doll in the goals.
“Now, you won’t see it in any coaching manual,” he quipped.