The Championship

Pundit Watch: Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane in shock disagreement

Sean O'Neill

PAT SPILLANE and Joe Brolly disagreeing in the RTÉ studios. Sure it’s what Championships summers are made of.

Spillane was back for his first outing of the season alongside Brolly, and the still fearsome looking Ciaran Whelan, for analysis of the Ulster SFC meeting of Donegal and Fermanagh and the Connacht clash of Roscommon and Sligo.

The Championship to date has been a damp squib, with GAA followers in the northern province feeling particularly aggrieved at how bad it has been. We have always lorded it over the rest of them with the boast of how competitive we are “up here”. But that is not a boast we have been able to trumpet so far this Championship.

And to make matters worse, Roscommon edged New York by a point in the opening encounter, and on Tuesday, Tipperary beat Cork for the first time in Senior Championship football since 1944 to set up a Munster SFC final with Kerry.

The big Raheny man told us that in his view the Championship to date had been “a snorefest” but he was remaining hopeful that there might be a couple of good games in the offing: “We live in hope and if we don’t - these two have missed each other since September - they can hop off each other,” he quipped.

It was over to Spillane and, absolutely bouncing to get into the fray, he launched a scything tackle as soon as he hit the action: “What has really surprised me this year is that, in certain cases...and I looked at Derry, I looked at Down and I looked at Laois, and I saw players playing inter-county championship football who I felt weren’t at the fitness levels and hadn’t the pace required,” said Spillane dismissively.

Ah Pat, we have missed you, ye oul divil ye. Brolly, unsurprisingly, was having none of that as regards the fitness levels and slipped comfortably into the groove of his current favourite theme – that teams like Fermanagh play with “passion” and “a smile on their face” as opposed to the likes of Derry who are, he told us alarmingly, “segregated away.”

Fermanagh he told us are a team who are always going to have a go “even when the Dubs were beating them by 10, 12, 14 points.” 

“You gave off about them,” insisted an incredulous Spillane.

The Derry man protested that he had been making a point about the need for a two tiered system on that occasion: “Different points Pat,” he assured the by now bristling Kerry man.

At that point, host Michael Lyster leapt in, boxing referee-like to restore calm to what is becoming one of the longest running squabbles on Irish television.

Meanwhile, over on BBC, the genial Mark Sidebottom was taking advantage of the fine weather, and was joined out on the parapet of the studio by Oisin McConville and Martin McHugh. When Donegal had emerged clear cut winners, despite being a man down for the entire second half, Gavin Andrews, who was pitch-side, spoke to man-of-the-match Odhrán Mac Niallais.

When he had finished with the Ghaoth Dobhair man, Sidebottom’s imagination was aflame as he made a bizarre and frankly terrifying analogy: “You always get the sense with the Donegal players that they are so laid back - if a Pterodactyl had swept in over the pitch, then they would just go: ‘hello Pterodactyl, come and play with us,’” said Sidebottom, who clearly must have had too much cheese, or something, too late before bed the night before.

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