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Weekend TV Review: Sky Much Better Than RTE In The Clash Of The Football Broadcasters

Weekend TV Review: Sky Much Better Than RTE In The Clash Of The Football Broadcasters
By Gavin Cooney Updated

Yesterday's All-Ireland final as a clash of two teams driven by opposing forces: Mayo, abjectly faithful to the tyranny of the past, versus Dublin, the remorseless, technical machine chudding inexorably towards the future.

Before Mayo play an All-Ireland final, they have to lose the previous seven all over again. By contrast, All-Irelands are laid before Dublin as just the latest stepping-stone to future domination.

The ancillary Croke Park battle - that between broadcasters RTE and Sky Sports - went along these lines, also.

RTE's coverage of the game was similar to the discourse around Mayo: drawing on history to obsess over intangibles like character, pride, and passion: ideals as nebulous as a curse.

Pat Spillane proclaimed ahead of the game that All-Ireland finals take on a history of their own, before he and his fellow panelists indulged in their own histories, each drawing on their own past experiences to preach the values needed to win an All-Ireland.

The Sunday Game ran clips of Brolly, Spillane, and O'Rourke winning their All-Irelands, which, in O'Rourke's case, led to the most awkward trophy presentation of all time:

Rec041 by yossarianlives5


This was analysis by anecdote. As the teams loitered in the dressing rooms before the game, Spillane told a story of how the Kerry squad didn't notice Mick O'Dwyer's false teeth falling out during a pre-final speech, so focused were they on the game at hand.

Brolly said that, in 1993, the medals and the presentation proved to be an anti-climax: what mattered was proving he and his teammates had the strength of character necessary to win an All-Ireland. This, he said, lasts forever. And this was what Mayo needed: he urged them to wage war, to take arms against a sea of historical troubles and end them once and for all.

At half-time, Brolly sighed in awed exasperation at Mayo's audacious misfortune. 'When was the last time you saw one own goal!?', before muttering 'curse', asking if Mayo were "stuck in the Twilight Zone".


This grand narrative of a team wrestling with their own past is what makes Mayo so enticing: they are the Don Draper among the Mad Men of Gaelic football.

Brolly seems stuck in this cycle himself:

Little was said of Dublin: but what could be said? A bunch of winners simply winning is pretty boring. In the pre-game predictions, all three tipped Dublin, with O'Rourke claiming that "I don't think David slew Goliath".


As RTE ended their pre-game coverage on a mythic tone, Sky began theirs with on a much more current one: Jim McGuinness scotched rumors that he had coached Mayo in the build-up to the final.

Whereas RTE meditated upon history as Mayo are doomed to, Sky's coverage took the cold, analytical tone of the Dubs. With Sky, it is easy to find their coverage off-putting. Jim McGuinness said in the build-up to the game that Mayo needed to bring "anarchy", and it is this sense that Sky often miss in comparison to the competition.

RTE bring a kind of careless dignity to proceedings, frequently meandering onto obscure stories and previous games (Spillane and Brolly went on a wild tangent on whether Kevin Heffernan and Mick O'Dwyer may have saved Gaelic football in the 70s), while Sky's takes on the feel of focus-group produced entertainment.


Sky's is full of men in three-piece suits politely taking turns to speak, like guests introducing each other at a wedding dinner. RTE's resembles the open-shirt raucousness of stragglers solving the world's problems while arguing about the price of the pint at the resident's bar at 4am.

If you can look past the slightly cold feel to Sky's coverage, however, it delivers. Mainly because they are saying something new.


McGuinness did what nobody else did and give Dublin a historical motivation: matching the feats of Heffo's army in putting together back-to-back All-Irelands. James Horan - making his 4,378th media appearance this week - was interesting post-game on asking why Mayo allowed three of their players give post-game interviews, whereas Dublin refused to speak. (A Sky panelist arguing against the interests of Sky will always be interesting, even if host Brian Carney cut across him to say they were glad of the Mayo players' time).

As evidence of Sky's belief in Serious Analysis, Peter Canavan stood for the duration at the SkyPad to deliver some really excellent Serious Analysis. RTE talked of how Mayo got their match-ups right without ever telling us what they were: Canavan showed them to us at half-time:

Canavan also surgically analysed Kevin Mcloughlin's own goal. RTE treated it as a uniquely Mayo aberration, whereas Canavan - while admitting misfortune - highlighted Seamie O'Shea's failure to stick to Brian Fenton in the build-up as the root cause of the problem.

In the build-up, he also gave the answer to a question asked regularly: why don't teams push up on Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs?Canavan's answer was that it's too risky to leave Dublin's forwards loose in behind.

McGuinness and Horan were both interesting on what went wrong with the Dublin performance: that they seemed too wedded to Jim Gavin's system, that Ciaran Kilkenny in particular indulged in far too much lateral passing, and was one of a number of Dublin players who failed to run at their opponents directly.

RTE won the pre-game montage with this film set to Yeats' Easter 1916, a poem which laments "polite, meaningless words". While Sky remained more polite than RTE, their words were certainly far from meaningless.

Spillane's words that All-Ireland finals take on a history of their own may well be true, but it was Sky who treated it so.

Marc Your Cards 

Brothers Tomás and Daragh have both become excellent pundits following retirement, and next in line will be Marc O'Sé. After Michael Lyster cut to Marty Morrissey's piece with two losing semi-finalists (O'Sé and Michael Quinlivan) with the line "when the going gets tough, Marty Morrissey gets going, O'Sé delivered a candidate for quote of the year:

He refused to be drawn on retirement, either, saying that, as his son is only six weeks' old, he may have to hang on to keep up the O'Sé representation on the Kerry panel. Look at that image above:  he looks like a travelling missionary imparting vital knowledge to a grateful audience.

The Lookit Of The Irish 

Conor Mortimer appeared on RTE ahead of the game, and set a record for the amount of 'lookits' that can be achieved in one sentence.

Rec046 by yossarianlives5


To break from the GAA, we are concerned about the safety of Howard Webb, who may be being held hostage in BT's bunker. Here he is during BT Sport Score on Saturday:

And thanks to Balls reader James Duffy, who noticed a worrying similarity:

Poor Howard. While in captivity, he has absorbed some of BT's Top B****r, as he took a pop at Jon Moss' pink shirt.

See Also: Weekend TV Review: Looking At RTE Vs Sky In The Battle Of The Hurling Broadcasters 

See Also: Weekend TV Review: Looking At Gary Neville's Bizarre criticism Of Claudio Bravo 

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