It’s a growing list of the irritated that Kieran McGeeney added himself to this past weekend.
In front of him in the disgruntled queue of inter-county managers about Gaelic football pundits this season is Kevin Walsh, who has since stepped down from Sligo, and Armagh’s Paul Grimley.
While Walsh and Grimley’s exceptions with Eamonn O’Hara and Joe Brolly were laid out by both men, the Kildare boss’ condemnation was more cryptic and, at the same time, cutting.
“I played with a few of these boys and these fellas were cowards when they were playing and they are cowards now when they tear these fellas apart,” he told local radio station KFM after exiting the Championship on Saturday.
Dara Ó Cinnéide, of this parish and formerly of The Sunday Game, understood McGeeney’s comments but also appreciated it was borne out of frustration after losing to Tyrone.
The Kerryman has nothing but admiration for the Kildare manager but sees the story from both sides.
“McGeeney called a few lads cowards. From his point of view, yeah, you can totally understand why he would call them that because they’re sitting back and they might not have managed inter-county teams.
“If you’re an outside manager you’re going to be under pressure from the word ‘go’.
“He’s put his balls on the line the last six years and it hasn’t worked out and I’m sure it’s very frustrating for him to be listening to fellas in a studio getting a nice appearance fee and spouting off.
“I’d like to think it’s more than spouting off; I’d defend the pundits in that regard. I’d like to think a lot of them are well informed.”
In one way, McGeeney contradicted himself in his remarks when he said: “The naysayers and the people who are there for entertainment, you just ignore them and get on with it.”
If he was able to do that he wouldn’t have had cause to say what he said.
But his ‘entertainment’ observation is an interesting one and one which Ó Cinnéide has seen first hand.
“From a television point of view and the producers behind these programmes, they’re looking for a balance between entertainment and analytical punditry. I might have been accused in the past of being too unentertaining or too practical or too analytical. It’s about striking a balance.
“Obviously, there are obvious candidates for the entertainment element of that but I think if you spoke to those lads themselves they’d probably say that’s what they’re in it for.
“I was on The Sunday Game for five years and I always tried to do something different.
“You’re be at the game, you come home and see The Sunday Game and what I tried to do was give them something they mightn’t have actually seen in the game.
“I was never interested in entertaining — I thought the information was entertainment enough. But TV producers will tell you there has to be a blend. You can’t just be a dull, dour person.”
He had discussed punditry, or “funditry” as Joe Brolly calls it, at length with the Derryman and can understand his take on it.
“Some of the pundits see it as their brief to entertain as well. Some of them would have an opinion that it has to be fun as well and I would agree with that. The public like to be entertained.
“I would have chatted to Brolly about it. He said in an interview he needed to get his kicks too. I’m sure he gets awful lot of stick himself around the place. He’s a good GAA man as well. Ask anybody around the country and he does an awful lot for clubs.”
McGeeney made it clear he accepts constructive criticism: “You have good people out there too. They will analyse the game and they will see the sloppiness. You have to take that sort of thing on the chin. That’s good analysis of a game.”
Ó Cinnéide takes his work serious enough to abide by that viewpoint. “I knew so many of the Kerry lads and try to distance myself from that past life and try to make sure there is a good gulf between me and the lads who are currently playing because you owe it to the person buying the paper or paying the TV licence to be as objective as you can.
“Punditry has its own different challenges. It’s something I enjoy but find very difficult at times. I’m seven or eight years gone from the game and it’s still very hard to keep pace with it and see what’s happening and what direction the game is taking.”
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