LARRY RYAN: Reeled in by sporting TV gold

Anticipating the great wave of ennui that would sweep the land following another Kilkenny All-Ireland win, telly chiefs were good enough to distract us with a welter of sporting fare this week, largely uncontaminated by on-field action.

A 2008 poll crowned Reeling in the Years the most popular home-produced programme ever made, confirming a fierce national relish for living in the past.

If there is any flaw in a fine production, it might be that RITY didn’t have the time and space to rigorously explore our sporting past, bogged down as it sometimes got in political manoeuvres, most of which are best forgotten.

In fairness, RITY 1990 did manage to capture the rapturous brand of madness that engulfed us during that year’s World Cup which, as Con Houlihan famously pointed out, you would have missed had you gone to Italy.

But in the superb Après Match of the Day (RTÉ2, Monday), we saw the enormous potential in RITY if the decks were cleared and we could tease out fully these great occasions in our history.

It helped too that the Après Match lads weren’t unnecessarily restricted by matters of fact, and could take their customary impressionistic view of things, which, in the case of history, is often the most accurate view.

The true hero of AMOTD was the man in the Submarine Bar, who had won a trip to the World Cup which comprised his bus fare to the Submarine Bar and all the smokes and gargle he wanted. Because this was one sporting occasion when you couldn’t definitively say whether it was better to be there or at home.

There was so much here of the way we were. A series of lovely vignettes and recreations of adverts of the time allowed many of us to recall it was during the intervals in sporting events that we first learned of the perils of brucellosis and liver fluke and other such blights.

We could confront the part of ourselves represented by a notional Brenda Donoghue roaring at a man in a Roscrea pub whose claim to fame was being named Mick McCarthy. And most of us could make some kind of peace with that.

And we could watch a notional all-male Portmarnock Golf Club choir, notionally singing ‘No Women in our Club’ and recall things weren’t all rosy in the past. Or now, either.

Alas, AMOTD is unlikely to be afforded the opportunity to challenge RITY in our affections. As George Hamilton recently explained in these pages, reflecting on the demise of ratings winner Know Your Sport, sport — outside the obligations of match coverage — isn’t often regarded as “sexy enough” in the Montrose corridors of power.

So only three episodes have been commissioned (See clarification at bottom). When we have already seen enough to know it should be as concretely encased in the schedule as The News.

And we have long ago known well there is nobody more fit to lead us than Barry Murphy.

Reeled in by sporting TV gold

At this rate, there will be a lot more than three episodes made of Páirc Life (RTÉ2, Tuesday). This was a show set firmly in the now, yet there was a nostalgic feel too, as though we had seen and heard all this before.

Two years on from Skin in the Game, also presented and produced by Jacqui Hurley, Páirc Life confirmed that of the three invulnerable topics of GAA conversation — the urgent need to restructure every competition, the terrible state of Gaelic football and The Sacrifices And The Demands — only the latter is sexy enough for prime time.

Ideally featuring a cast of sexy GAA players, with Emlyn Mulligan and Mags Darcy playing the parts of Eoin Cadogan and Anna Geary this time round.

Solid evidence that The Sacrifices And The Demands are becoming too much came in the form of Mulligan packing his bags to move abroad for a year, to see the world, rather than make himself available for Leitrim.

As for the lack of Rewards for The Sacrifices And The Demands, we took a look around Stephen Hunt’s gaff, which might have been slightly fancier than Podge Collins’.

Podge was adamant it’s only a matter of time before the games go pro, considering The Sacrifices And The Demands, but our own Michael Moynihan was on hand to crunch the numbers and point out the economic realities. And Jacqui more or less conceded there are no easy answers on this one.

Which should guarantee a reprise of the format ad infinitum. The one piece of nostalgia where we will always be looking into the distant future. For now, all the rest of us can do is count our blessings that we never made the county.

For Mulligan, perhaps there is the consolation that he can take off and see the world whenever he likes and pick up The Sacrifices And The Demands at a time that suits him.

A man who always seems pretty comfortable with The Sacrifices And The Demands is Richie Hogan, who was as genial as ever on the returned Second Captains (RTÉ 2, Wednesday).

A few more matches is all Richie wants, though you can’t help feel he might have to get used to fewer matches if he flakes the ground in frustration again at one of Cody’s demands to come ashore.

If we can expect a Páirc Life every year for the foreseeable, it’s hard to see a lengthy future ahead of Sin Bin (TV3, Thursday).

Living, as we do now, in Rugby Country, you wonder if a true run at the Webb Ellis would ever generate anything like the madness of Italia ‘90. It seems unlikely, with all the lads in pubs demanding hush for the kickers.

We got no sense of any madness in store here. In fairness, you could see where they were going with it. You could even admire them opting for the very antithesis of a rugby club vibe, with the garish set and Andrew Maxwell. But if the Après Match lads’ touch for sport is feather light, Maxwell’s second touch is a tackle.

An unfortunate victim was Joe Molloy, so polished in the Off The Ball presenter’s chair, but looking here like Parky asked to present Eurotrash.

Even The Ugly Game deserves better.

CLARIFICATION: Tremendous news, RTÉ confirms six episodes of Après Match of the Day have been scheduled. 

Heroes & Villains

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Richie Power:

Forget your pitch invasions and laps of honour, a few pucks in Croker with the young lad was the most Kilkenny way possible to celebrate an All-Ireland.

Michael McDonagh:

“I was never on a website or a computer in my life.” A man with no need for the crutch of nostalgia.

HELL IN A HANDCART

Trophy personification:

“Cats bring Liam home again.” What kind of Romulus and Remus antics must John Foreigner think of when he sees headlines like that?

Jack Grealish:

Wherever and whenever this saga ends, let’s hope he’s worth it.


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