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Mischief-Makers: A Tribute To The Finest Rogues In The GAA

Mischief-Makers:  A Tribute To The Finest Rogues In The GAA
Balls Team
By Balls Team
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Such a parcel of rogues in the GAA. A long overdue tribute to a selection of the finest rogues that the association has ever been fortunate enough to call members.

This is a portrait of but a few of the GAA's greatest rogues. There are many, many more and we would be happy for you to chip in with names.


Before we get into it, we may clarify what we mean by "rogue".

A rogue must be something more than a cartoon hard man or a notorious filth-monger, although he can be those things.

But for us, true roguery is more about mischief-making than dirt. That is the crucial thing to remember as we proceed.

Joe Brolly


The ultimate in Irish roguery and a hero and inspiration for aspirant rogues everywhere. He captures the spirit of the rogue better than anyone else in public life today.


He showed us that roguery is more about provoking violence in others than dishing out violence yourself.

Brolly instantly guaranteed himself a place in the Rogues' Hall of Fame forever back in the summer of 1997. Derry demolished the back-to-back Ulster champions Tyrone and a grinning Brolly celebrated his two goals by blowing kisses in the direction of the rival fans.

He barely flinched as the TK Lemonade bottles and various other projectiles rained down upon him.


This is rogue behaviour 101 and all the more impressive for being so nonchalant.

He did, however, flinch after indulging in similar behaviour against Meath in the League semi-final in the late 1990s. Late in the game, Brolly scored the decisive goal, lobbing the advancing Meath goalkeeper.


That same Meath goalkeeper (Conor Martin) had told RTE a year earlier that beating Dublin in a Leinster Final was "better than sex." (Yet another sporting triumph compared favourably with sexual intercourse. Only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink stood against the tide and defended the joys of sex in this context).

As the Meath goalie sat disconsolate on the turf, Brolly ran up and tousled his hair and asked him if what had just happened was "better than sex". He proceeded to wheel around and blow kisses to all and sundry.

This deliberately provocative celebration was cut short when Colm Coyle gave him what has been described in some quarters as a "boot up the hole".


Brolly himself recalled that Coyler had "booted him the thigh", an attack which left him needing 11 stitches.

As Brolly limped off the pitch, his manager Brian Mullins offered touching words of sympathy and support.

"You deserved that you little bollocks," he said.



Sylvie Linnane


In contrast to Brolly, more of an old-style hard man rogue.

Speaking to Conor Hayes in the aftermath of the 2015 All-Ireland hurling final, Balls asked why so many 'rucks' were breaking out in modern hurling. Why were there so many multi-player scrambles on the ground, the bulk of which concluded when the referee decided he needed to throw in the ball?


Hayes said that players were no longer pulling on the ball out of fear they'd strike an opponent and draw the ire of the referee. Back in his day, Hayes told us that the like of Sylvie would burst into the ruck and pull hard on the ball. He'd clear the sliotar and might clear a few shins out of the way while he was at it.

"And that would be the end of that particular ruck," Hayes said.

Of course, Hayes was no slouch in the rogueish department.

Sylvie won three All-Ireland titles with Galway in the 1980s and sits at right corner back in the county's Team of the Millennium. His last act in the championship for Galway was getting sent off by the controversial John Denton in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final for a foul Nicky English off the ball.

Sylvie did a nice line in on-pitch wit. As time ran out in the 1988 All-Ireland hurling final, Tipperary, trailing by five points, won a free 13 metres out. A breathless Nicky English asked the referee how long had he left.

Before the ref could confirm that it would be the last puck, Sylvie interjected. "You've 12 months now," he said.


Ger Loughnane


During Ger's stellar player career, he won two All-Stars and a couple of League titles. But media coverage wasn't as extensive back then and Clare unfortunately never reached Croke Park in that era.

Thus, Ger rogueish instincts remained hidden from public view until he became a manager in the 1990s, at which point they were unleashed in torrents much to the chagrin of hurling administrators.

His most outstanding display of roguery in the Clare job was in the summer of 1998, in which his Clare team tore strips off Waterford in a Munster Final replay and then Ger proceeded to tear strips off the Munster Council when they attempted to suspend one of his players, Colin Lynch.

His rogueish instincts remain undimmed in later years. Brian Cody was moved to refer to him as "that lunatic from Clare" after Ger, then in charge of Galway, accused Kilkenny of dangerous play in advance of their All-Ireland quarter-final.

Since then, he has even managed to generate controversy in a light-hearted segment on the Sunday Game, when he advised to a Dublin Junior E hurling team to protect their hands on the grounds that "Tommy Walsh could be around."


In more recent years, he has called Galway players "gutless" and compared their new manager to Father Trendy and he remarked of Offaly, that they were the only county in the country where "fat bellies and arses" proliferated on the hurling team.

Unfortunately, he has stepped away from televsion punditry for now, and fans of roguery are sadder for it. Though he hasn't been quiet, even calling out "the pathetic egos" the new pundits on The Sunday Game last year.

READ HERE: Tommy Tiernan Issues Apology To Fellow RTE Presenter Over Controversial Joke


Johnny Pilkington


He was reputed to be a rebel but Pilkington couldn't see sense in the Offaly fans revolt after the 67-minute long Clare-Offaly semi-final in 1998.

Not long after the game, Anthony Daly approached Johnny in the old players lounge in Croke Park. According to Daly, Pilkington was pulling on a fag and couldn't understand why Offaly supporters wouldn't "go away for an oul' drink."

Offaly manager Michael Bond had already heard rumours of a replay and told Pilkington to go easy on the pints. "Go away now, we were beaten fair and square, Michael!" Daly recalls Pilkington saying.

The Offaly team of the 1990s are renowned as the greatest collection of fun-loving rogues ever to troop out on Croke Park's sacred soil. An inspiration for lazy geniuses everywhere who roll their eyes disdainfully at the earnest workaholics round about them. Famously, they barely tried a leg in the League, losing to Antrim a couple of times, and suffering a rather striking 1-27 to 1-1 defeat to Galway one year.

None was more fun loving or rogueish than Pilkington. This is a man who prepared for a championship game against Wexford in 2000 by attending a wedding on the Friday before eventually crawling into bed at 2am on the day of the game.

His rogue instincts paid off big time for Offaly two years earlier. After Babs gave his players a lash in the press following the 1998 Leinster Final, the unhappy Offaly players met and agreed they should hold their counsel until they could confront their manager.

Pilkington piped up "Er... you're not going to like what's in the Irish Independent tomorrow lads."

Pilkington tore into his manager and accused him of both failing to take any responsibility and hanging the players out to dry. Soon Babs was out and the mysterious Michael Bond was installed with approximately zero pomp or ceremony. A strangely liberated Offaly team galloped all the way to an unlikely All-Ireland.

He retired in 2001 and shortly after that he announced he was quitting smoking.


David Brady


While Brolly blew air kisses, David Brady is the only man on here who kissed an opponent mid-game. In a League game in 2006 against Galway, Brady shaped up to his aggressive opponent Niall Coleman.

Rather than landing a blow on Coleman, he discovered a better way to annoy him. "So I kissed him," he told Off the Ball years and years later.

2006 was a bumper year for displays of Brady rogueishness.

One of the least surprising revelations of the past fifteen years was learning that Brady was the originator of the plan that Mayo should warm up at the Hill before the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final.

Far from being a plan hatched in advance down in Ballina, the idea came to Brady seemingly during the team photo. Conor Mortimer recalled how Mickey Moran and John Morrison told them to warm up at the Canal End and Brady simplied replied "No, fuck it, we'll go down that side."

Speaking to Balls.ie a few years ago, Brady recalled Mickey Moran's anxiety throughout the whole incident.

He was waving at lads "get back down! who decided this, who did this?"

And we were going, "lookit Mickey, just relax now, there's no hassle."

"Who, who, who organised this!!?"

"Mickey, we're here now."

And he was saying, "go back down (to the Canal), this is not right, we're being distracted". Mickey was getting distracted allright. But I think the team knew what the plan was.

It was during the photograph (when it was decided). It was, like, guys, now we're going left, we're not going warming up in the Canal, we're going left.



Kieran Donaghy

Everyone else always seemed content to let Stephen Cluxton saunter up the pitch for his long range frees. During the 2015 All-Ireland final, Donaghy was damned if he was going to let Cluxton continue on his serene march. Actually tripping up the Dublin goalkeeper went further than most people thought it would go.


With his snarl and aggression, he is adept at winding up opposition supporters. When Joanne Cantwell tried to interview an injured Donaghy in front of the Hill halfway through the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, both were drowned out with boos and jeers.

As Kerry led by about 13 points at that stage, Donaghy looked like a man who'd never heard a sweeter sound. When irate Mayo supporters howled about Kerry cynicism after the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final (the Limerick game) one couldn't help picturing Donaghy pushing people about and remonstrating with the referee and generally arguing and mouthing about everything.

As for winding up northerners, he has previously screamed in an Armagh goalkeeper's face and blighted Joe Brolly's twitter mentions for years to come.


Tiernan McCann


A rogue in a slightly different sense, McCann has curtailed some of this craic in more recent years, but in the middle of the last decade, the Tyrone was man was nationally notorious for going down a but easy. Conor Neville summed it up in his Irish Examiner in 2015,

One scarcely needs reminding of the reasons for Tiernan’s notoriety at this point.

After Darren Hughes lovingly patted McCann’s beautifully maintained coiffure (in itself an unusual move on a football pitch), the Tyrone wing-forward spun around and flung himself to the deck with breathtaking speed. By the time the first slow-motion replay had been shown, Tiernan’s fate as the pantomime villain du jour had been sealed.

Among the GAA community, divers are held in marginally less esteem than gougers and stampers.

Inevitably, dark references were made to Premiership footballers, of whom McCann’s antics were allegedly reminiscent. (And Tiernan doesn’t even get paid to dive. He does it for the love of it...)

We've witnessed dives in the GAA before - indeed a recent Kerry retiree became briefly notorious for a famous dive back in 2008 - but none as memorable or as gleefully executed as Tiernan's.

What marked Tiernan out as a rogue of unusual promise was his online behaviour that evening. He did not appear to be whimpering under the weight of public opprobrium and dealt with the controversy in a manner which should lead all to admire his chutzpah, namely, by issuing a series of cheeky re-tweets.

Defiantly, he changed his Twitter-bio to that questionable Oscar Wilde maxim - "The only thing worse than being talked about it not being talked about."


In Pictures: Diarmuid Connolly's Glittering Intercounty Career



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