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Opinion: The RTÉ Panel Are Ireland's Longest Running Comedy Show

Opinion: The RTÉ Panel Are Ireland's Longest Running Comedy Show
By John Dodge
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After the spat between RTÉ and Noel King over the last few days John Dodge gives his opinion on an RTÉ panel that he thinks were rightly branded a comedy show by Ireland's interim manager.

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t believe Noel King should have got the ROI job even on a temporary basis. My view is formed watching King’s sides compete in the LOI (where he was unable to get a job for the past ten years) and watching the ROI u21s play. I mention that because I’m 100% certain that Friday’s game against Germany was the first time Messrs Dunphy & Giles witnessed a King managed team.

They spent 30+ minutes (over) analysing a half decent Irish performance that saw them create a couple of chances against a vastly superior team. By every measure it was an improvement on the 6-1 humiliation suffered during the reign of Giovanni Trapattoni. Whereas Liam Brady steadfastly defended Trapattoni, he savaged King’s tactics on the RTE panel. Eamonn Dunphy, as he’s want to do, mockingly said that King “made Trapattoni look like Guardiola”. Not once did anyone suggest that as King was only there for 2 games and Ireland were already out, that this game was completely irrelevant and didn’t warrant much analysis.

So we fast forward to Tuesday night and Ireland beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in fairly comfortable fashion. In the pre-game show Darragh Maloney tried to discuss tactics and John Giles opined that all tactics are rubbish. Of course no one pointed out the hypocrisy of criticising Irish tactics on Friday and saying they don’t matter on Tuesday. It also confirmed that Giles, like Dunphy, knows absolutely nothing about the modern game. Giles’ last hands-on involvement with football was 27 years ago. He’s from an age when drinking 20 pints was seen as a warm down. Dunphy, as brilliant a writer as he can be, has even less credentials to be allowed a national platform to spout his particular brand of guff.

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The youngest member of the panel last night was Richard Sadlier who’s promising career was cut short 10 years ago. He’s clearly intelligent but what has he done in the game? His only active role after playing was as CEO of my club, St Patrick’s Athletic. His only managerial appointment was to hire Jeff Kenna (without seeing other candidates). After finishing 2nd in 2008 under John McDonnell, Pats were close to relegation in 2009 when Kenna resigned midway through the season (only saved by interim manager Pete Mahon). Sadlier may well point to budget cuts as a mitigating factor, and that’s probably true, but how can he honestly say Noel King isn’t “up to the job” when he clearly hasn’t a clue what makes a good manager.

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Giles and Dunphy have been ever present on Irish screens for 25 years. They got lucky that TV coverage of football exploded after the success of Jack Charlton’s Ireland. Dunphy effectively made his name after his anti-Charlton outbursts during the 1990 World Cup. He has slated every single manager since. That is, until they leave, when he compares them quite favourably to whoever has the job at that time. He understands TV. He knows that he can say German football in decline in September and claim it’s transcendent in October. He knows he can openly state he has better things to do on Saturday nights than watch football and still give opinions on European sides on Champions League shows. He’s rarely, if ever, challenged by the primary ringmaster Bill O’Herlihy.

He’s rarely challenged because like Dunphy, O’Herlihy knows TV. He knows that allowing Dunphy to flip-flop and make outlandish uncontested claims gets people watching TV. The RTE panel aren’t going for hipster kudos here, they’re going for ratings. There are hardcore football fans who’d love nothing more than some sort of insight into how the game unfolded. Instead RTE treat us to the three wise men arguing over whatever they think will maximise publicity.

Their anger at Noel King wasn’t because he attacked Tony O’Donoghue, it was because he called them out as a comedy show at the weekend. After the interview Dunphy, who’s made a career out of attacking managers, starts to say “if you attack the media” and then trails off. Later he brings up King’s comments. For the past 4 years RTE have been interviewing a pretty Italian translator. While King may have been a bit OTT, it showed how comfortable and lazy some in RTE have been that any kind of resistance was treated with shock and then contempt. “How dare Noel King suggest that he knows the players better than Tony O’Donoghue?”

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Except they weren’t upset at King’s comments at all, they were all delighted. It meant instead of talking about football, they get to ramp up their (fake) outrage and huff and bluff their way through another broadcast. They’re delighted that websites like Balls.ie continue to talk about them. They’re delighted because they’ll continue to get very well paid for looking at football and spouting guff. Noel King was 100% right, the RTE panel aren’t there to analyse football, they’re a comedy show. They’re also RTE’s longest running and most successful comedy show. What that says about us as football fans is for another day.

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