The comments from pundits covering live TV games occasionally make news, but the recent outburst by Joe Brolly created as many headlines as the game he was analysing in Croke Park.
The genial host for the Saturday Game, Michael Lyster, was literally stuck to his seat at Brolly’s outburst. Pat Spillane and Colm O’Rourke are rarely lost for words, but they looked transfixed like two bold boys getting a lecture from their teacher.
At the heart of Brolly’s indignation was the awarding of the Man of the Match award to Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh.
Unquestionably Tyrone would not have reached the All-Ireland semi-final without a heroic performance from Cavanagh, but his starring role was marred by a crude tackle on a Monaghan player as he bore down on the Tyrone goal.
Brolly’s condemnation of Cavanagh’s tackle was correct. His assertion that such tactics influence young players was also correct Brolly overdid the criticism and drifted into the inappropriate territory of personalising the matter.
Thankfully, by the end of the week Brolly recognised that the tone of his comments was wholly inappropriate and he apologised. He deserves credit for this. For Cavanagh this was the second game in a row in which he rugby-tackled an opponent as he bore down on goal. Brolly was, therefore, entitled to call it as he did.
Cavanagh is an honourable guy and a fiercely committed player. At the moment he is in the driving seat for Player of the Year. His influence on the Tyrone team has never been greater.
He knew that his actions would only merit a yellow card, so he probably felt that it was worth making the sacrifice for the sake of the team. Imagine what Tyrone supporters would have said if Monaghan had scored a goal and Cavanagh had allowed his opponent a clear passage on goal.
Cavanagh’s action was a case of cynical play, but the reality is that this type of play has infected Gaelic football for years.
The Tyrone player’s assertion that he was playing within the boundaries is correct. Pulling down an opponent is allowable once, and the penalty is a yellow card. A player can pick up a yellow card every day without any further penalty. This would not be tolerated in any other sport.
Many efforts were made over the years to tidy up football. Those efforts met with minimal success. It is grand to talk about the spirit of the game but the reality is that, for the majority, winning is all that matters.
Next year the ‘Black Card’ will be introduced. It has the potential to cause mayhem on Gaelic football fields. Nevertheless, it is long overdue but it may not solve all the game’s ills.
As soon as this year’s championship finishes many inter-county teams will be back training for 2014. Managing those ‘Black Cards’ will be as challenging for team managers as it will be for the players.
Brolly has long been a supporter of Tyrone and is proud of his association with the county through his mother. Many players and counties have incurred his wrath over the years, but I doubt if anyone saw his latest outburst coming.
Whatever one’s opinion of the Derry man’s comments they certainly brought GAA punditry to a different level. Public opinion remains divided, though, even if Brolly and Cavanagh both felt vindicated by their respective actions.
I wonder will it be any different in 2014 despite the introduction of the ‘Black Card’?