Joe Brolly has admitted his desire to get back on television and to feel ‘excited’ again when the producers say ‘five, four, three...’ in his ear was partly why he set aside his long-held beliefs about pay-per-view broadcasters and the GAA.
The Ulster man has been an ardent critic of the GAA’s broadcasting deals with subscription based broadcasters, chiefly Sky Sports, arguing as recently as last summer that placing games behind paywalls means tens of thousands of people in hospitals and nursing homes are being ‘deprived of seeing our games’.
Yet less than six months on his is the new face of eir sport’s Allianz Leagues coverage for 2020, an about-turn that has stunned many and led to inevitable claims that the Derry man, who was released by RTÉ last year, is a hypocrite.
“Well, I don’t know, I mean I suppose you could say that,” replied Brolly to the claim.
He maintained he had no other option but to park his beliefs given the apparent lack of support for his argument throughout the last decade.
“I take your point, I know what you’re saying but I’ve chosen to do it. I think the reality is you either become irrelevant or you accept the reality. The GAA has made this decision. It’s set in stone. I had conversations at a high level two years ago, this is over.
Nobody is talking about it. No players are talking about it. I mean, if you said it to any of the players here today, they would say, ‘have you lost your f***ing mind?’
“It’s a generational thing. Also, I was conscious that I was more or less ploughing a lone furrow. The debate is dead.”
The overwhelming desire to get back on telly after his exit from RTÉ, something that ‘hurt’ the former All-Ireland winner deeply, was a big factor in his decision to work with eir.
“I love the public conversation and that’s a big part of it as well, the idea of being hooked in,” said Brolly. “I love the telly, I’ve always loved the telly.”
Brolly admitted he also didn’t want to conclude his work as a GAA analyst on the low note of being released by RTÉ following his comments during the All-Ireland drawn final broadcast. He was highly critical of referee David Gough and claimed that a subsequent on-air argument with Pat Spillane was referenced when he was released from the role.
The successful barrister was highly critical of RTÉ Head of Sport Declan McBennett and argued that the Sunday Game generally is losing its edge with more emphasis being placed on ‘statistics’ and ‘control’ of analysts rather than free discussion.
“I always thought about punditry, if you can see yourself standing at the bar with friends of yours who are knowledgeable about football, having a few pints and talking about the game, then you are in business as a pundit,” he said.
“You see with the newer breed of pundits, for example you see the rugby players who have just recently become pundits. Because they have come through that culture of saying nothing, they don’t say anything. They’re talking without speaking. And that’s the process that’s well under way now with RTÉ.”
Brolly said that he won’t be muzzled or told what he can and can’t say by eir.
“With this gig, they guaranteed me total independence, total independence,” he said.
He also promised that with subscription based broadcasters now a fixture within the GAA, he’ll be using his new position to lobby eir to make their product more widely available.
Discussing Dublin, who play Kerry in the Allianz League on Saturday week, Brolly tipped them to make it six-in-a-row but predicted that Kerry will take over from 2021.
He said that Dessie Farrell’s reign is likely to be a ‘light-touch regime’ and that the same players who have dominated in recent seasons are young enough to win again.
But asked if they will run out of road eventually, Brolly nodded enthusiastically.
I say one more All-Ireland for the Dubs and then the following year Kerry, so long as they’re structured around Clifford. He’s not markable. I mean, he scored 4-4 against us in the (2017) minor All-Ireland final. 4-4 from play.
“Do you remember the first goal where he got the ball near corner flag and there were about five Derry men around him and it still ends up in the net. I expect that Kerry will be next to win the All-Ireland, so long as Clifford stays injury-free.”