Omnishambles as Armagh chairman rises to Joe Brolly’s bait

We find ourselves in the middle of our first Joe Brolly News Cycle of the summer

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney with his players after the defeat to Cavan at Kingspan Breffni Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney with his players after the defeat to Cavan at Kingspan Breffni Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

The brilliant BBC satire The Thick of It bequeathed us the phrase “omnishambles”, and, after it was appropriated by real-life politicians almost immediately, it had found its way into the Oxford English dictionary within a year.

Pick up a copy of the OED today and its definition might well mention the last week in Armagh GAA, because this has been the omnishambles to end all omnishambles (it’s a fun word to say, so it might appear a couple of more times).

Mistake No 1, of course, was losing the bloody game to Cavan last Sunday week.

But everything that’s happened since has compounded the errors of the only people who actually count in this scenario, which is of course the management and the players.

They were not necessarily expected to win this game, of course. Cavan and Armagh were both in Division Two this spring. One of them was promoted and one of them was relegated, so that gives you a reasonable indication of the prevailing form lines.

But the performance was poor; the physicality that you would expect of an Armagh team or, indeed, a Kieran McGeeney team wasn’t there, and they looked a beaten docket long before the end. The panel and management knew from the moment the final whistle blew that there was going to be criticism.

What is your only protection from criticism? Performing. What is the only answer to criticism? Performing better the next day.

Stirred people

To be fair to Kieran McGeeney and his players, they seem to understand that, and haven’t said much of anything. But the identity of the critic-in-chief, Joe Brolly, appears to have stirred people into action.

Second Captains

Former Armagh player and manager Paul Grimley called him “poisonous” on Tuesday, Jamie Clarke released an extraordinarily unnecessary statement on Friday, and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the middle of our first Joe Brolly News Cycle of the summer.

The JBNC pattern is well established at this stage. Joe makes reasonably ludicrous remarks on Sunday, papers ignore it on Monday because there’s actual sport to talk about, and then on Tuesday someone in the offended county sticks their head over the parapet to register their disgust that a TV analyst should analyse their team.

There might be a reasonably cryptic tweet from Joe that stirs the embers, and then a player or a manager (or in this case, chairperson) can bear it no longer and by the week’s end we have a full scale . . . yes, omnishambles on our hands.

This “right to reply” business on The Sunday Game last Sunday night (an offer taken up, or a demand made, by Armagh County Board chairperson Paul McArdle) was a new wrinkle in the process, it must be said.

The idea that you could get two minutes on Ireland’s biggest sports show to outline in grotesquely tiresome detail why your manager is doing a brilliant job, just because someone was a little mean on the show the week before, sets a rather dangerous precedent.

I look forward to Didier Deschamps’ FFF bosses being afforded similar latitude after ol’ Eamo tears them a new one on Friday night.

I will give Mr McArdle this though – he knows his showbiz clichés. Leave ’em laughing, they say . . . and so he finished by clarifying that Armagh GAA would be making no further comment on the matter. That got a chuckle out of me.

Joe Brolly was speaking at half-time of a boring game. He was talking about the future of the sport, the nature of life as an intercounty footballer, and “the cult of Kieran” (which is a fine turn of phrase, to be honest), because the game was terrible.

Once again, this is just Joe showing a keen understanding of television.

The Sunday Game is not the priest’s pulpit, Joe hasn’t been given a gown and gavel (not yet, at least); it’s a TV show. He treats it as such, and so should everyone else.

The only question Joe Brolly needs to answer is if he felt it was more entertaining than him talking to us about Cian Mackey’s influence in the middle third. If he can answer that to his own satisfaction, I say – “shine on, you crazy diamond”.

Annoying people

He can analyse a game pretty well, but he bows the knee only to Donald Trump in his mastery of the skill of annoying people in a truly visceral, under-the-skin way.

The truth in Armagh lies somewhere between the stories told by Joe Brolly and their county board. In the seven days that separated both narratives, you might have felt compelled to pick a side – the Armagh team can’t let either of those arguments distract them from the hard work of honing their preparation and their performance to fix what went wrong. The rest of us can just relax and watch the telly.

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