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KNEEJERK: Our Controversial Columnist On The Strangest Line Of TV Commentary He's Ever Heard

KNEEJERK: Our Controversial Columnist On The Strangest Line Of TV Commentary He's Ever Heard
By Sean Og O Kneejerk
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After a fortnight in which Michael Conlan was very possibly robbed of a medal in Rio and Pat Hickey was arrested on charges of illegally flogging Olympics tickets at inflated prices, the greatest explosion of outrage was reserved for Tommy Carr's performance on co-commentary in the Mayo-Tipperary game. 

As used to be said of referees, the best co-commentators are the ones who are barely noticed. Michael Duignan's co-commentary displays, for instance, barely cause a ripple on social media, a sure sign that the online community regard his contributions as totally acceptable to the point of flawless. Social media being the hard taskmaster that it is, there is no higher praise than silence.

For all that he claims to adopt a serious tolerance policy on bullshit, somewhat akin to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's 'No Spin Zone, Sean Óg has occasionally displayed a vulnerability towards bullshit of the folksy variety. It's modern bullshit he can't abide, bullshit that's been dreamed up by fellas in suits with degrees. Bullshit that's hung around for years and years, to the extent that it becomes part of the landscape, that is the stuff he sometimes has trouble sniffing out.   

For instance, in our past discussions, Sean Óg has frequently lied about how he used to turn down the sound on the television and turn up the radio when watching a game live, a practice he said he continued to engage in until Micheal O'Mhuircheartaigh's retirement in 2010.    

Yes, turning down the sound on the telly and turning up the sound on the radio, that ancient pastime that multitudes were supposed to partake in but few actually did, not least because it didn't actually work very well in practice.

For one thing, the two mediums were pretty much never in sync. You invariably heard that a penalty had been saved before you saw that penalty being saved. A TV commentator would have to be almost dangerously irritating for a viewer to be willing to put up with that. 

Well, yesterday, during the Mayo-Tipperary All-Ireland semi-final, Sean Óg, using the clout he has accumulated over many nights of heavy drinking in the same spot, persuaded the proprietors of Mulligans to mute the television and turn up the sound on Radio 1 in the corner. The move, we're told, attracted disquiet from some corners of the bar.  


And yet it is not the internet's greatest hate figure, Tommy Carr, that prompted Sean Óg to demand that the TV be muted but his numero uno, the man in the pilot seat for the whole production, the semi-beloved Mr. Marty Morrissey.

It wasn't Tommy Carr's stated viewpoint that the early part of a game and the latter part of a game are both inappropriate times to flash a black card. 

No, the incident that prompted Sean Óg to demand action occurred early in the second half. 


It was then when, after witnessing a foul by Lee Keegan on Michael Quinlivan, Marty remarked, "it's not often you see Lee Keegan fouling."

In Sean Óg's estimation, the only way an individual could not have been exposed to the sight of Lee Keegan fouling a man is if that person had never watched Gaelic football before. We hurriedly told him that Marty Morrissey has commented on what must be hundreds of games for RTE at this point, coining many memorable phrases in the process.    


Whatever way they have the TV set up here, you're able to rewind the game and see a bit you might have missed and then fast forward again. During the second half, I got Paídí (barman) to rewind back a few minutes to see did I hear what Marty said rightly? There was a few people grumbling behind me demanding to know why the telly was being rewound. As if they were going to miss anything.

Sure enough, I heard Marty rightly the first time. He said "it's not often you see Lee Keegan fouling." He actually said that. On the television. Where people could hear him.


It was as bad as I've heard from a commentator in RTE in all my years. And that's against some stiff competition. Ger Canning has tossed out a mountain of guff in the 3,000 or so years he's been commentating on All-Ireland finals but I've never heard him say anything as crazy as that.


Micheal O'Hehir talked a fair deal of twee, cliched nonsense during the autumn of his life when he was doing the television commentary. He never mastered the medium. On the radio, he was far better, although maybe back in those days we didn't know any better.

Anyway, this day has been coming for a number of years. Micheal (O'Mhuircheartaigh) quit about six years ago. Since that time, I haven't bothered switching down the volume on the TV.

But this masterclass from Marty on the 42nd minute was the final blow. It had to be done.


Alas, he found the commentary on the radio no more satisfying than that which was offered on the television. 

The entire pub marveled at Martin McHugh's tendency to begin his contribution in one place, immediately drift from the point, half-dive into various other topics, before eventually finishing his stream of consciousness very far from where he began. 


There was, inevitably, the problem of the delay. The pub learned of Mayo's second killer goal several seconds before the live television coverage brought them pictures of it.  

It didn't really work out as an experiment yesterday. On the TV, Regan was still winding up to shoot for a point when the radio told us the ball was in the net.

But the alternative was listening to Marty tell the world that Lee Keegan - fantastic player and all that - was a saint who never laid a hand on his man in his life. We registered our protest at that guff. There were a few patrons in the bar who weren't totally on board, who found the time delay too much to bear.

But we stuck with it, for all its faults. Martin McHugh talked a lot of blather, of course. Being honest. it was difficult to discern any of the points he was making when he was in full flow. Still, he can get to the heart of the matter occasionally.

Last year, he came over all David McWilliams on us, when he blamed the Celtic Tiger for the decline of Meath football. There was so much handy money sloshing around that lads weren't putting in the hard labour on the farm anymore. And Meath lost the edge after that. People accused him of talking awful rot. Personally, I thought it was the finest piece of analysis he has ever put together. There could an academic paper in that for someone to write.

There's little point asking him about the game itself. Sean Óg is part of that band of grizzled traditionalists who believe that Mayo have lost an All-Ireland as soon as they get into one. Like most old-style purists, he doesn't accept that the standard disclaimer issued by banks and building societies applies to sporting competition. For him, past performance is always a guarantee of future performance. 

Mayo will likely go in as underdogs, particularly if Dublin win the other semi-final. And even if they're playing Kerry, they'll be playing a team who've just beaten Dublin. As ever with Mayo, Sean Óg's analysis doens't exactly strive to be cutting edge and, if truth be told, barely rises above the level of slagging. He almost talks about the final in the past tense, as if they've already lost it. 

Mayo have reached eight finals now in the last thirty years. And this is probably the worst team of the lot to get there. They beat one proper team on the way to the final and they made heavy weather of that. Nearly frittered it away with their ridiculous fluttering around in the final few minutes. Had they received a kick in a teeth in those last few minutes, it would have been richly deserved. In 1997, they were stone useless towards the end of the championship and were lucky it was only a moderate Offaly team standing in their way. But at least that year they played a decent game in Tuam, where they never won before that.

You'd have to have pity for their supporters, believing in all the hype. There's always one clown who comes out and says, "you know, there isn't as much hype this year, people are keeping it low-key, people aren't getting carried away." He'll usually be standing in front a green and red painted sheep.

(*Sean Óg O'Kneejerk was in conversation with Conor Neville)  

Read more: KNEEJERK: Our Controversial Columnist Accuses GAA Of Treating Hurling Like An Irrelevance

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