Joe Brolly was like Marmite but be careful what you wish for

Mary Hannigan: Controversial pundit’s absence could make things a lot quieter

While the biggest surprise come Saturday evening would be if there were no surprises in Jim Gavin and Peter Keane’s Dublin and Kerry team selections, the changes RTÉ announced on Tuesday to their line-up for the All-Ireland replay did indeed catch most of us on the hop. Not only has Joe Brolly not made the starting three, he hasn’t even been included on the bench.

As the fella himself put it on Twitter on Wednesday, “if anyone has a spare ticket for the replay, I’ve just been let down..”.

It’s possible that RTÉ were feeling a bit let down themselves after Brolly, not best pleased with some of David Gough’s decisions in the drawn game, had accused the referee of being “clearly influenced by the propaganda coming from Kerry”.

The Derry man subsequently apologised to Gough for that remark, but having had to apologise too over time to Marty Morrissey, for suggesting he was as “ugly” as Cavan football, and to Seán Cavanagh, for saying “he’s a brilliant footballer, but you can forget about him as a man”, and to Sky’s GAA presenter Rachel Wyse, for referring to her as a “Baywatch babe”, maybe it was a case of four strikes and you’re out?


Meanwhile, after a solid enough performance during the drawn game, Pat Spillane retains his place in the live line-up, although there are those who would argue that Ciarán Whelan has been fortunate enough to hold on to his. Not least when there are concerns about his eyesight in light of his failure to spot Jonny Cooper holding David Clifford’s arm, despite Joanne Cantwell showing him a slo-mo replay of Jonny Cooper holding David Clifford’s arm.

Stephen Rochford, the former Mayo manager who is now working with Donegal, takes Brolly’s place, while the line-up for the post-match Saturday Game is comprised of Cavanagh, Colm O’Rourke and Tomás Ó Sé. It’s unlikely, then, that Brolly will be a late call-up to that particular team given that a United Nations Peace-keeping force would be required to sit between himself and Cavanagh on the couch.

How has his de-selection gone down? Opinion is divided, maybe 99-1 in favour among Kerry supporters and 3-97 among Dubs. Former Donegal footballer Eamon McGee probably spoke for the bulk of the rest of us, though.

“Joe Brolly not making the All-Ireland final panel leaves me torn. When he wasn’t making personal attacks like the Cavanagh rant he was good craic, no serious analysis but just good craic. You can’t keep making it about yourself though, eventually people get fed up.”

No craic

There are, of course, echoes here of Eamon Dunphy’s departure from RTÉ’s football punditry line-up. A sizeable chunk of those who hurled dog’s abuse at the fella over the years and demanded his removal from their coverage have since passed their days complaining that there’s no craic at all to be had with the newer panel. It’s been a kind of a “be careful what you wish for” thing.

The general consensus, though, after both this year’s hurling final and the drawn football game is that RTÉ need to find themselves neutral pundits for the big days, Henry Shefflin’s defence of Richie Hogan after his sending off against Tipperary, for example, leaving the nation hollering as one: “You cannot be serious!”

Brolly, as we might detect from the accent, is no Dub, but such is his fondness for Gavin’s team there are times you’d wonder if he has Molly Malone’s face tattooed on his arse.

Will he ever be back? Well, the chat is that it’s unlikely, that his almost two decade-old relationship with RTÉ is done and dusted. We’ll see. He’s not short of surprises himself, this lad.

And so often has he fulminated about Sky Sports having rights to GAA games, there’s possibly more chance of Jeremy Corbyn joining the Tories than Brolly transferring to that particular team.

How will his absence change the dynamic on the RTÉ panel? Well, there are likely to be fewer personal attacks, not so many referees will have their integrity questioned, there won’t be the need for so many post-coverage apologies, Mayo’s manliness will no longer be doubted, we’ll definitely have less interruptions and we might even get some balance.

In other words, it could be very boring.

We do indeed need to be careful what we wish for.