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Here Are The Four Nominees For Pundit Of The Year 2014

By Conor Neville
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Sure the analysis was better than the game...

Joe Brolly 

Another magnificent year for the motormouth from Dungiven (I was going to call him 'the Londonderry Lip' purely for the purposes of alliteration but thought better of it).

Who remembers those innocent days when Pat Spillane was the bold boy of RTE's GAA coverage? It all seems very twee now. In controversy terms, Spillane is analogue in a digital age. A legendary player, a beloved figure and a great controversialist by the standards of the 90s, when it comes to winding folk up, it is now clear that Spillane was merely preparing the ground for Brolly.

Brolly has now ascended to the pantheon of RTE punditry greats - a place hitherto for populated only by the three A-listers of RTE's soccer coverage.

Too many great moments to mention, but arguably his best work this year was done in his absurdly quotable Gaelic Life columns, in which, among other things, he told the story of a Cavan man who belted out the national anthem as a prelude to sex, and compared Kerry's All-Ireland final winning performance to the girl in the Exorcist, who sprayed vomit out of her mouth with the speed of machine gun fire.

His caustic dismissal of the Galway footballers - whose seriousness about upsetting the Kerry juggernaut rivalled the Rose of Tralee's determination to bring about world peace (though I think it is aspiring Miss Worlds that more usually roll out world peace as a key policy) was his finest moment in the Croke Park corporate box this season.


What has really made Brolly great in the past couple of years is his refusal to wear the halo of saintliness.

There was a danger that his organ donation campaign would lead to him becoming some establishment darling, one of those irreproachable figures forever lauded by worthy but dull quangos. Nothing is more boring than saintliness.

But Brolly, he just can't resist being so damn mischievous, he undercuts that air of suffocating piety every time.


He will, of course, not win this given his talent for provoking the ire of people on Twitter - who tend not to be so pedantic as to demolish or de-construct any of his arguments (though, in fairness, we must be cognisant of word count constraints) but rather just say emphatically, 'Jaysus, Joe Brolly is some bollox! I wish Colm O'Rourke would throttle him.'


Richie Sadlier


A star in the making, Sadlier brings a remarkable level of thoughtfulness, perspective and wisdom to his football analysis. This is a man who has thought things through. His every moment of pause guarantees that when he opens his mouth again, something insightful is going to come out.

What is it about these Irish boys who pass through Milwall and their thoughtfulness and imagination?

His bracing unsentimentality about the League of Ireland seemed to get on some people's tits. His row with Dermot Keely being the most fractious moment.


While the sight of so many Liverpool fans crowding out the Aviva to cheer on the reds as they set about the local boys made some people queasy, there is no question that when it came to the debate, Sadlier, like Beverly was supposed to do to her father, left Keely standing. The latter couldn't hide his disgust at the 'barstoolers' and then when pressed, couldn't own up to it. Sadlier's cool rationality broke his argument down.

Elsewhere, he went against the grain in attacking the Dundalk fans for waving a Palestinian flag in the face of a fussy UEFA delegate. That article, like so many others, gave a genuine and rare insight into what it's like being involved in running a football club.

Gary Neville


The global superstar of the punditry game, Neville's popularity continues to climb. It truly has reached astonishing levels unimaginable only a few years. Little more needs to be said about Neville's analysis. It's forensic, rigorous, counter-intuitive when it needs to be, and, at times, playful.

His only perceived flaw is his supposed reluctance to go 'full gun' on the players he has to deal with in the England set-up - a criticism which has been getting louder recently. It may just a manifestation of the obligatory backlash.

He also appears to have made the personal list of enemies of one Richard Keys out in Dubai, who barely goes a night without sending a graceless and transparently bitter jibe Neville's way. Neville completely ignores this and may not even know it's happening.


Thierry Henry is being paid a large fortune to give his opinions on football matches from next year onwards. If he is to justify getting more than double what Neville takes home, then he'd want to be some pundit.

Donal Og Cusack

Stellar year once more but he was pushed hard by the impressive and popular Eddie Brennan.

What Gary Neville has done to football, Og Cusack has done to hurling, bringing a level of tactical awareness and sophistication to RTE's hurling analysis (previously an arena riddled with cliche) that many wouldn't have believed possible.

Conventional wisdom gets a kicking too. Like many Cork hurling people, he doesn't embrace the current fetish for manliness. This was at the root of his rather scathing critique of the generally popular Brian Gavin, whose 'common sense' approach to refereeing he held responsible for the high number of rucks and throw balls in the game.

Honourable mention... Eamon Dunphy and Kenny Cunningham's row

A level of spite we haven't seen in the RTE punditry room before - that is quite a thing to say bearing in mind that Dunphy and Giles went two whole years without speaking to one another in the early 90s.

Dunphy and Cunningham appeared to take an instant dislike to one another. The nadir came when the pair engaged in an utterly irrelevant argument about John Terry after England's exit. Dunphy goaded the new boy relentlessly and at one stage it looked like Cunningham was going to snap.

Utter tension.

[Watch Video]


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