Conor Neville: Joe Brolly steals Henry Shefflin’s  thunder

THE punditry boom in the GAA keeps getting boomier.

The arrival of Sky has helped no end in this. Nowadays, no sooner does a star player retire than speculation arises as to whether he’s going to sign with RTÉ or Sky.

Henry Shefflin’s debut was competent and confident and distinguished by a surprising willingness to take on his own people. Not Kilkenny people, mind. Hurling people.

He boldly pre-empted the complaints of the anti-hurling snobs at half-time in Thurles yesterday. The first half was negative and tactical and, had it been a game of football, it would have been roundly abused. It is not often that the game pilloried as the GAA’s ugly sister receives such a stout defence at half-time in a hurling match.

But, ultimately, Shefflin’s punditry debut was overshadowed by the man who sat before him in the chair nearest Michael Lyster.

Well, of course it was; it was Joe Brolly. Everything is overshadowed by Joe Brolly.

Those innocent days when Pat Spillane was the bold child of RTÉ’s coverage seem quaint now. Brolly is in another stratosphere. He is the Mozart of controversialism.

Back in the Giovanni Trapattoni era, it was commonly remarked that the games themselves were merely tedious interludes which only served to break up the main event — namely Johnny Giles, Eamon Dunphy, and Liam Brady discussing those same interludes.

We reached that point in Gaelic football a long time ago. If you typed “Cavan” into Twitter during the game yesterday, hoping to get a sense of what people thought of the match, you’d have had no luck. The only Twitteraccounts who could be bothered talking about the Cavan-Monaghan game were those who felt obliged to do so. These accounts had worthy names such as Official Cavan GAA, Monaghan GAA, Ulster GAA.

Despite their efforts, the Twittersphere was alive with talk about the punk of the RTÉ analysis shed.

Cavan are the latest Ulster team to up the ante in defensive football terms and thus they have aroused the ire of born-again purist Brolly.

But he stepped into trouble when he reported the words of a person he referred to as “somebody”, who said that the Cavan football team “were as ugly as Marty Morrissey”. The good news is his apology was prompt. The bad news is it was directed at the county of Cavan.

Cowed, perhaps, by word of the gathering storm, Brolly gave his official apology at half-time. Pithy and ironic and mischievous as he is inclined to be, Brolly explained the remarks came from a place of affection.

Elements online were calling for his head. Despite being a left winger, he could end up as the GAA’s Jeremy Clarkson yet.

From the scribbler’s point of view, it is a national priority that Brolly stays where he is.


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