‘He's a two-trick pony’: The top ten Sunday Game controversies

Of all the rows ‘The Sunday Game’ programmes generated during the last 40 years, perhaps changing the theme tune 15 years ago was the greatest of them. Here our GAA correspondent John Fogarty lists 10 of the controversies prompted by comments and quotes.

‘He's a two-trick pony’: The top ten Sunday Game controversies

Of all the rows ‘The Sunday Game’ programmes generated during the last 40 years, perhaps changing the theme tune 15 years ago was the greatest of them. Here our GAA correspondent John Fogarty lists 10 of the controversies prompted by comments and quotes.

“You can forget about Seán Cavanagh as far as he is a man.”

– Joe Brolly, Tyrone v Monaghan, 2013 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.

Mistakenly believed to be the reaction that prompted the introduction of the black card (it was voted in early that year), Joe Brolly’s animated description of the Tyrone captain for bringing down Conor McManus as the Monaghan forward was through on goal remains one of The Sunday Game’s biggest flashpoints. Brolly apologised to Cavanagh for the remark soon afterwards.

“Did you think it was a penalty yourself, Marty?”

– Brian Cody, Kilkenny v Tipperary, 2009 All-Ireland SHC final.

After leading Kilkenny to a fourth consecutive All-Ireland title, Cody took exception to the line of questioning from Marty Morrissey regarding Diarmuid Kirwan’s dubious decision to award the Cats a late second-half penalty. Henry Shefflin scored a goal from it and the game turned in Kilkenny’s favour.

“I’d call it puke football.”

– Pat Spillane, Tyrone v Kerry, 2003 All-Ireland SFC semi-final.

As much as Pat Spillane tried to qualify his remark by saying Tyrone were deserving winners on the day, the remark lingered for several years as a slight against Tyrone and Ulster football. He received a number of threats after it and has admitted he made an error in using the phrase, only to claim his remark was prophetic.

“In my opinion, he is a two-trick pony.”

– Martin McHugh, August 2014.

In trying to praise James O’Donoghue who would later that year go on to win the footballer of the year award, the former Donegal star made an astonishing remark about Colm Cooper, which he later admitted was “clumsy”. Two years earlier, Brolly had questioned Cooper’s ability to turn big games on their head but McHugh’s line rightly ruffled a lot of feathers in Kerry.

“I love me county.”

– John Mullane, Waterford v Cork, 2004 Munster SHC final.

You might not think his memorable line to be that controversial but then Mullane had just been sent off in a provincial final. The emotional Waterford legend spoke to Tony O’Donoghue about how bittersweet the occasion was for him as the Déise went onto win without him. “I’m heartbroken,” he admitted. Mullane chose then not to contest his suspension, for which he was roundly applauded, and missed out on the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kilkenny.

“I’ve got two All-Irelands and you’ve got fuck all.”

– Davy Fitzgerald, Clare v Waterford, 2012 Munster SHC semi-final.

As a manager (“we’re going to do it”) and pundit (“pure constipated hurling”), Ger Loughnane produced some great lines but Fitzgerald’s remarks to one or two of his former Waterford charges during the game were picked up by RTÉ and later debated. Fitzgerald later expressed annoyance at the proximity of the microphone to him on the sideline and questioned whether other managers were being recorded as closely. Over a year later and he had a third All-Ireland to his name.

“I think there is a group around Frank (Murphy); actually a group of stooges and yes men.”

– Dónal Óg Cusack, July 2015.

After seeing his native Cork lose to Galway by 12 points in an All-Ireland quarter-final, Cusack unleashed a broadside against the Cork County Board, mentioning Murphy who he had clashed with during the strikes. Cusack also questioned the structures in the county.

“My heart was with Limerick but in five minutes suddenly they were gone.”

– Eamon Cregan, Offaly v Limerick, 1994 All-Ireland SHC final.

Never has an All-Ireland-winning manager appeared as crestfallen as Limerick native Cregan did seeing his Offaly team stun Tom Ryan’s team in the closing stages. The former Limerick star was broken and his riveting interview with The Sunday Game eloquently portrayed his anguish and conflict.

“(David Gough) has clearly been influenced by the propaganda coming from Kerry.”

– Brolly, Dublin v Kerry, All-Ireland SFC final 2019.

Brolly’s criticism of Gough’s decision to show two yellow cards to Jonny Cooper for fouls on David Clifford in the drawn decider may turn out to be one of the last things the Derry pundit has said on The Sunday Game Live. He later rowed back on the remark having spoken to the referee.

“We’re champions of fucking Ireland.”

– John O’Dwyer, Tipperary v Kilkenny All-Ireland SHC final 2016.

Interviews in the immediate aftermath of games are real risk-reward events. Sometimes there is gold like Kieran Donaghy’s “What do you think of that, Joe Brolly?” in 2014; others times not so much like Jonny Glynn’s “it’s fucking bullshit” remark in 2015 to the question of Galway having only one forward (Joe Canning — Glynn apologised quickly afterwards for his profanity). In the heat of the moment, O’Dwyer’s utterance three years ago, which was carried like Donaghy’s and Glynn’s over the PA system, was understandable but for The Sunday Game perhaps a tad regrettable.

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