FSL Electronics - Electronic Scoreboards
  • You are here:
  • Home
  • >Blog
  • >Joe Brolly - Love him or Hate him

Joe Brolly - Love him or Hate him

3rd Aug 2013

There is only one Joe Brolly. Some may say that is a good thing. They hate him in Mayo and Armagh, not to mention Kerry and a few other places. 

The 'Joe-haters' are jumping on the bandwagon after the Derryman's stunning and angry outburst after the Tyrone-Monaghan All Ireland Quarter-final, with criticism flying all over the world of social media, but let's take stock of the situation. 

First, let me say that I think we are lucky to have Joe Brolly in the GAA. He is very intelligent, entertaining, amusing, articulate and passionate. Think of his amazing work for the Opt for Life campaign, speaking to and wooing Congress only a few months ago. Think about his many speaking engagements where has had you in stitches or in shock at his comments. 



Now let's get to the game today, and more importantly, to RTE's television coverage. Before the game, Pat Spillane and Colm O'Rourke offered precious little in terms of insightful commentary. The latter was particularly lazy in his analysis and seemed to want to paint Tyrone in a negative light. In contrast, Joe gave an animated breakdown of the contest and showed a real interest in what was to come. 


At half-time, attention was drawn to a challenge by Darren Hughes on Sean Cavanagh. The replay showed that Hughes had won the ball cleanly and that the referee had made a mistake. It happens. The ref also got three previous frees wrong, which all ended up in easy points. It happens. But at half-time, Colm O'Rourke basically accused Cavanagh of cheating to win the free. Hughes came from behind Cavanagh yet Sean was supposed to have grabbed the arm of the man behind him, at full speed, and used it to manufacture a free? 

In the second-half, Cavanagh hauled down Conor McManus as he bore down on goal. Martin Carney screamed foul, it should 'definitely be a red card'. Really Martin? Have you been watching Match of the Day because the rules are different in the GAA than they are in the Premier League. I'm not saying I agree with them but they are different. We do not have a professional foul. There have been numerous examples of players committing a similar offence and not being shown a red card. 

Now think about Joe, the Ulsterman in the TV studio, listening to all this anti-Tyrone talk. The final whistle goes and they go back to the the pundits. The first surprise was that O'Rourke changed his tune completely and even suggested it was 'rich of him' to complain about fouling after he played on the Meath team on 25 years ago. Did someone have a word with him? 


The second and much bigger surprise was that Joe lost his cool. To be absolutely fair, it's not like him. Maybe it was the pressure, I don't know, but he went off on one. 

The sentiment was admirable but the rant was misplaced and over the top. Yes, it's bad for the game, but it was wrong to pin it on Sean Cavanagh. The three-time All Ireland winner has been playing for 11 years and, as far as I'm aware, Sean has never had anything but a first-class reputation in the game as a terrific player and a great sportsman. Have a few incidents inside one week changed all that? 

Let's take a wider perspective. This isn't about Cavanagh, or at least it shouldn't be. I remember the same man being hauled to the ground by Dublin in the 2011 All Ireland Quarter-final in Croke Park. Every time he got the ball and tried to run from the middle of the field, a blue jersey dragged him down. Tyrone got a free, the Dubs got back and nothing came off it. In short, Dublin had a tactic to negate one of Tyrone's major attacking threats. It worked for them. 

And what do you think the pundits did after that game? Nothing, not a word anywhere that I could see. The good old Dubs, on the way to Sam. I'm not saying they did not deserve their win but it happened, just like it happens all the time and just like it happened in Tyrone v Monaghan. 

And what do you think Tyrone did after that game? They did not complain but you can bet that they learned from it and set out to do the same if they had the chance. If the Dubs could do it, then why not us? You can say that that is inward-looking and bad for the development of the game, but that's what 99 per cent of teams are like. They are selfish and they want to win, usually at all costs. 


Now let's go back even further, to the root of the problem. Gaelic Football has changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years, and not necessarily for the good. You could say that Armagh and Tyrone brought it to a new level in 2002/03 with multi-player tackling and the so-called blanket-defence. It worked for them. 

In 2006, All Ireland champions Tyrone were held scoreless in the first-half in Omagh when they attempted to defend their title against Derry. Not one score in 35 minutes! 

Derry did it by identifying Tyrone as a team who liked to play the ball out short and run with the ball, so to avoid Derry's bigger midfield. The Oak Leaf boys proceeded to systematically foul Tyrone from the corner-backs out, with rugby tackle after rugby tackle, taking a tick, a yellow card, another tick and then bringing on a substitute who would do the same, from scratch. It worked for them. 

Please don't read this as anti-Derry because there is a much wider and important debate here - you can win by fouling, sorry stifling, the other team. It has happened countless times since. 

I don't even go to top inter-county games any more, because it's awful to watch. This year, I flicked on the telly to see some of the Donegal-Down Ulster SFC game. Right away, Conor Laverty side-stepped a Donegal man and when he attempted to deftly get round another, he was grabbed and thrown to the floor. Lovely. 


That's what Joe Brolly is talking about, and he's right. Skill has to be protected and allowed to thrive, but instead it has gradually been hammered out of the game. 

Later in the same game, Laverty was shown in replays to have 'gone down easily' to win a free. At the time, he was surrounded by half a dozen muscular Donegal defenders closing in fast. I'd have done the same as Conor! Seriously, my point is that brawn has been winning over brain. As Johnny Ross commented on Facebook tonight: 'All skill is going out of the game and is being neutralised by 15 brick outhouses cynically fouling. It's ruining the game'.  

And it's not just at the top level. I've listened to youth coaches shout 'foul him there', encouraging a tactical foul to prevent an attack.  
GAA administrators are trying to address the problem in a number of ways, including the introduction of the black card next year, but will it be effective and why has it taken so long? 

Maybe I should end on a positive note. A former colleague, John Haughey, who admits that he isn't known for being the most optimistic of hacks, comments: 'Hopefully, the sport will be better after Joe's rant because amid the hyperbole, his basic argument is spot on. The end justifying the means argument is ultimately not an argument. Maybe this will create debate and whatever his motives, that will be a positive for the sport'. 

John also quotes an idea from Kieran McGeeney to award an automatic penalty in the Cavanagh/McManus situation, which is an interesting one. 


I feel that it's unfortunate that Tyrone and in particular Sean Cavanagh has taken the brunt of Joe's rant. Their names are tarnished because a lot of people will just go with Joe on this, casually forgetting all the superb moments and memories Tyrone have brought to the game of Gaelic Football over the last ten years. Others will use it to simply put the boot in. 

This is the damaging part of the rant and it's essentially why it was misplaced and an over-reaction, so please don't lose that or underplay it when you agree with the sentiment of Joe's message. It's no wonder Tyrone people find themselves standing up for their county, you would do the same. 

We Tyrone folk get accused, lazily, of being blinkered but for heaven's sake, we have won three Sams in the last ten years and have contributed enormously to the modern game. 

A video I found on the web the other day shows how misguided Joe's sharp and pointed criticisms are. It was prepared by the Football Review Committee for Annual Congress and shows a succession of cynical fouls as a reason for the introduction of the black card. 

There is not one Tyrone foul on the compilation and guess who posted the video on Twitter... yes, Joe Brolly. Let's have some meaningful context Joe and widen out your campaign if you really want to run with it. 



Related Link