It’s not today or yesterday Joe Brolly came to the attention of your eagle-eyed columnist. Or eagle ears, maybe.
Nigh on 30 years ago I recall a classmate slumping next to yours truly in an English lecture and griping all the way through 40-odd minutes on the romantic poets about this northerner he’d marked in a Gaelic football game the day before, when UCC had taken on Queen’s University. Quick lad. Chatty.
“All talk, all guff,” said my pal. “All day long ‘Give it to me boys, give it here boys’, to his own team-mates. Worst thing was he was able to back it up. Destroyed us.”
“Will you dial it down a bit?” I said. “The man’s getting to the good bits. Southey!” (I did yeah).
At that stage Brolly was a vocal corner-forward and nothing more. At this stage he’s a vocal pundit and considerably more.
Tonight on RTÉ a documentary airs which examines the extraordinary story of Brolly’s donation of a liver to a clubmate of his, Shane Finnegan, and his subsequent work driving the Opt for Life campaign, which is trying to get people to commit to organ donation.
The renovation of Brolly’s reputation has been quite the sight to see. His scorched-earth approach to punditry on The Sunday Game has led people all over Ireland to having scorched-earth ideas of their own about the Derryman.
It was hardly surprising, then, when the news broke about himself and Finnegan, that there was a certain amount of exasperation that Brolly would not be surrounded by the odour of sanctity. That you couldn’t really unleash your full venom on a man who’d handed over one of his vital organs to someone he didn’t even know that well.
Bear that in mind when you’re watching tonight’s documentary. The Brolly-as-secular-saint we now revere was an object of... strong feelings only 12 months ago. Odd what a year can do.
I selected the secular saint deliberately, too. I happened to meet Joe Brolly when he was in Cork earlier this year and we discussed the transplant and a range of other matters. He had his first pint of stout since the transplant the same evening, and his form was good.
How good? As I left the hotel I saw the bould Brolly kneeling and genuflecting at the feet of Peter Clohessy. I went for the camera on the phone just a second too late, or tonight’s show might have had some extra footage to cherish.
Joe Brolly – Perfect Match is on RTÉ 1, tonight at 9.35pm.
A conspiracy of silence greets Rebels’ demotion
So I got a text on Saturday night about the hurling leagues next year (I know, says you, ‘have you nothing else to be doing?’).
Extraordinarily enough, it seems that Cork will play in Division 1B, or the second division, or whatever name you want to use for the tier below the top one. When I say ‘extraordinarily’, of course, I mean for the legion of conspiracy theorists and lurking moaners who proclaimed to all and sundry that there was no way Cork would be relegated, sure we all know that, there’s one rule for them etc, etc.
Well, those chaps who spent the summer tapping the sides of their noses and rolling their eyes in an expression of paranoia will have a winter of discontent as they try to explain this one away. Sorry to remove an easy target for the lazy complainers who like to have their own prejudices corroborated.
The odd thing is that no other county seems subjected to this kind of sniping. Because Cork has often performed a vital service for the GAA in pointing out deficiencies in the rules of the Association, for some reason the Leesiders seem to be fair game for every complaint going.
You need only see the downgrading of the Leesiders’ last football All-Ireland, not to mention the fact that one of the most goal-resistant hurling defences in recent years got a grand total of one All Star this year.
I’m well aware that my passport leaves me open to accusations of bias (check with the Cork County Board on that score, though). But for the smart alecks who predicted sleight of hand escape from the second tier for the Cork hurlers in 2014: where’s your explanation for this one?
Dream team stealing the Aviva limelight
The big question of the week is this. Who can Joe Schmidt possibly appoint to try to deflect some of the attention away from the two media darlings in charge of the country’s soccer team? When the former Leinster coach replaced Declan Kidney as Ireland rugby coach, there was a good deal of nodding and smiling: the appointment of Schmidt was viewed as a good move, one likely to reinvigorate the national side and, hopefully, cause an upward spike in results. The usual polite noises, basically. Probably the most scintillating nugget from the rash of profiles was the fact that Schmidt’s video review sessions on a Monday morning tend to be a searching experience if you’ve made a mess of a tackle at the weekend.
Then you had the Beatles reforming later in the week.
Schmidt is going to have to see that pair of aces thrown on the table by the FAI and raise them. The point was made to me that if Keane and O’Neill — sorry: O’Neill and Keane — hadn’t been appointed last weekend, then Ireland v Latvia could easily have been attended by fewer people than turned up in Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the Cork SHC final.
As it was, there were 37,000 people at the Aviva for the Ireland game. How many if Noel King, no disrespect, was still in place?
I’m always keen to help, so I was thinking Joe might want to go left-field in his appointments process. Maybe George Clooney, who is probably publicising a movie around this time. Or maybe Lady Gaga, another person on the PR treadmill.
Or maybe Keane could double up on a second number-two role (Two squared? Four? Square root of 16?) and help out the rugby team as well.
There’s no reason to be complacent if you’re a GAA fan, either. Any media environment which can be dominated by a second-in-command’s press conference is one that you need to get a toehold in. That is why I nipped down to the bookies’ earlier this week to put a crafty fiver on Alex Ferguson getting appointed to Jim Gavin’s backroom team, and sooner rather than later.
Look forward to Sean Cavanagh being dismissed as not a top, top player in the coming months; just don’t raise any horse-racing issues in those pressers under the Hogan Stand.
Let’s not overreact to the skipper’s thoughts
Carlsberg don’t do overreactions. If they did, there’d be a large green logo on Paul O’Connell for the next few days. The Ireland captain’s words following the defeat to Australia have been parsed like a missive from Moscow during the Cold War. “You read Leinster players for the last few years talking about accuracy in every interview they do,” O’Connell was quoted as saying, “and you know, the way we started the game wasn’t accurate and that doesn’t spread belief throughout the team. That was disappointing from our point of view. We need to be accurate.”
Is he having a go at Leinster players? If he is, would that be so horrific? Indicative of simmering resentment and irreparable damage to the team ethos?
I doubt it. From this quarter it looks like an awkwardly phrased comment about a need to be more precise, though you could, I suppose, take umbrage from it if you so wished. But it doesn’t look like a sideswipe to me. Of course, if Mr O’Connell chooses to state that yes he did mean to cast aspersions on the Leinster players, he’s entitled to that opinion. Just bear in mind when you point out my errors there’s no need to overreact.
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