THE FOGARTY FORUM: Ill-timed rants now a Sunday night rite

If Eamonn O’Hara was feeling a little sheepish after only his second ever appearance on The Sunday Game, it would be completely understandable.

What he said about his old manager Kevin Walsh was wrong. Plain wrong. It was personal. How could it be anything else?

Here was a man, a pioneer of a footballer in his prime, slamming a great of the game who had felt it necessary to jettison him from the panel because he couldn’t give the commitment he required.

Suggesting he wanted the Roscommon job? Good luck proving that. Saying the players deserved more? Why did O’Hara absolve them of all responsibility for what transpired in Ruislip?

Sunday was not the time for O’Hara to make a big splash but maybe he felt he had to having just joined the RTÉ roster earlier this month. After all, it’s a team of big personalities he’s joined.

However, this was a defeat that called for measured analysis. Walsh and Sligo merited criticism not because they lost to London or because O’Hara wasn’t allowed to remain in the panel but because they lost to a team from a lower division that finished last of all 32 teams in the National League this year.

Yet this was a banana skin game. Mayo could have told them that — they reached an All-Ireland semi-final two years ago despite being brought to extra-time by London.

Paul Coggins’ team also had plenty of motivation too. Not being permitted a single challenge game in Ireland by the GAA in the lead-up to the game surely got on their goat.

In Montrose, there was room for questioning of Sligo as much as there was praise for The Exiles. Yet aside from a Skype link set-up with Coggins and a gaggle of his players, there were no glowing words from the rest of the panel. Not because they didn’t want to, but O’Hara took centre stage.

The Sunday Game, if it is to be treated seriously as an analysis programme, can’t be a stage for people to settle old scores or, in O’Hara’s case, pretty fresh ones.

And what is the show these days but a theatre when punditry can range from schadenfreude to gimmickry?

Earlier this month, Pat Spillane made a telling remark about his interpretation of The Sunday Game: “The majority of the people watching aren’t into serious analysis. TV is entertainment“.

Joe Brolly indicated something similar when, on the subject of punditry, he spoke in these pages last year of associating the word “choker” with Colm Cooper.

“I have enjoyed the response — I have to have my fun as well. Where am I supposed to get my kicks?”

Martin McHugh has a son in the Donegal team and is hardly challenged on his generally wrong predictions against the county.

All three men provide oodles of enjoyment because they are divisive characters, experts in flirting with the line that shouldn’t be crossed. They are also capable of astute analysis but it appears only a by the by.

What O’Hara said about Walsh on Sunday would have been in keeping with the example set by Spillane, Brolly or McHugh if he wasn’t so inextricably linked to the present Sligo set-up, which made his comments all the more notorious.

The evening Sunday Game programme is an institution but when it comes to football it’s for the most part, mere entertainment.

The hurling department provides considerably more emphasis on how games are being lost and won and the addition of Dónal Óg Cusack is a serious one. The football, not so.

On Sunday afternoon, Michael Lyster, perhaps sensing a full-blown row, interrupted after Colm O’Rourke described Brolly as a cheerleader of Donegal and asked him why he didn’t focus as much on their cynical play as he did Mayo’s prior to last year’s All-Ireland final.

Whatever about the fan comment, O’Rourke’s second point required an answer. Later, both O’Hara and Ciarán Whelan threw their eyes to heaven when Spillane made a remark about the blanket defence.

Neither episode did anything for the credibility of the programme. Great TV it might make but great GAA TV? Hardly.

Email: Twitter: @johnfogartyirl Munster undermined before mismatches

The 18- and 17-point margins in the Munster quarter-finals this weekend reflected poorly on the overall standard in the province and have once again raised serious questions about the current championship structure.

Not only that, it further exposed the gulf between Division 1 teams and those on the lowest rung of the league ladder.

Yet should we be all that surprised by what transpired when the competition had already been undermined by the decision to stage a Munster semi-final six days after its quarter-final?

Kerry and Tipperary accepted a request by Waterford for the short turnaround because of club fixtures, a favour that illustrates just how abridged the Déise’s championship aspirations are.

The sense you get is they are already resigned to their fate against Kerry in Killarney and are hoping for a decent draw in the qualifiers.

When Cork and Kerry are drawn on separate sides of the draw in the province, it means a big occasion — not to mention a big money day — for the Munster Council in July.

However, the unfortunate by-product is everything else, more often than not, is merely ceremonial.

Cunningham must choose either Laois or Waterford

There’s a bit of a dilemma for Ger Cunningham, he of Limerick, this Sunday. He’s been helping out both Waterford and Laois yet he’ll likely have to pick one over the other as they are out in Thurles and Portlaoise at 4pm and 3pm respectively.

Cunningham, the third trainer under Waterford manager Michael Ryan, has privately been credited by both sets of players with their relatively good fortunes this year and has played a large part in Waterford’s training camps.

However, it will be the sideline battle between Ryan and Davy Fitzgerald that will be worth keeping an eye on in.

Fitzgerald preferred not to share the whitewash with his Waterford successor in the Division 1A opener in Ennis in February, opting to watch the game from the gantry instead. But he is likely to be back on the line on Sunday and, given the pair’s lack of fondness for one another (they’ve yet to shake hands in any of their three previous encounters), expect sparks to fly.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.


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