Off The Fence: 'Mean-spirited' Joe off the mark on Gooch

Colm Cooper has been roundly eulogised by almost everybody, with one notable exception. Picture by Declan Roughan
Colm Cooper has been roundly eulogised by almost everybody, with one notable exception. Picture by Declan Roughan

“SHUP will ya?” said Ciaran Whelan in the most northside brogue he could muster.

Tomás Ó Sé just lightly shook his head, politely smiled and set the timer to drop one of those masterful, lilty, west Kerry phrases: “If you go far enough easht, you’ll end up wesht”.

League Sunday's debate was indicative of the reaction Joe Brolly elicits from a lot of people, but there are an equal amount that love his candour and refusal to march to the beat of the PC Band.

As Dungiven men tend to have, there’s a bit of a twinkle and a mischief about it all and he sparks debate on a weekly basis. Some people agree, some people don’t, but sure in that job the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

‘Thanks for the memories Gooch’ was never on Joe’s side of the argument with a moniker like that.

“I was amazed and disgusted by the lack of balance in the views of Joe Brolly in his article summarising the contribution of Colm Cooper to Gaelic football over the best part of this century. The response of many fellow players, both team - mates and opponents - and journalists alike in offering analysis of Cooper's football career since he announced his retirement has been overwhelmingly positive, not to mention the wonderful applause by both Kerry and Dublin supporters for the Gooch at half-time in Sunday's National League Final in Croke Park.

“Joe Brolly's article was mean spirited and begrudging towards a player who has enthralled and delighted spectators from all counties in Ireland and has done so with a wonderful spirit of sportsmanship and humility.

“It was, therefore, uplifting to read the article in Tuesday's Irish News by a really fine journalist, Cahair O'Kane, [I swear I didn't write this myself] which encapsulated all the many outstanding features of the Gooch's game, and reminded us of just a few of the great cameo moments of pure skill and breath-taking wizardry which adorned his exceptional career.

“The fact that the body of GAA sporting journalists who select the All Stars each year saw fit to bestow this status on Colm Cooper on eight occasions ought to have been enough to encourage Joe Brolly to use his article to celebrate, not denigrate the talents of a player about whom so many people have stated 'we won't see his likes again.'”

CO’K: I’ll fire that money up later… In fairness to Joe, he was fulsome in his praise of Cooper’s ability but just not so much in terms of his ability to pull Kerry through a tight spot. He’s wholly entitled to that opinion and some of the reaction to what he said has ironically been wildly over-the-top. My point was simply that he played better in those games against Tyrone than he’d been credited for.

‘Nipper Scud’, perhaps irked by my love for Steven McDonnell or that I didn’t declare Peter Canavan as the #GOAT (Greatest Of All Time in millennial speak apparently), had one simple message.

“You can't hide your Tir Eoghain bias as well as Joe.”

Over on The Facebook, ‘Brenda’ had a simple solution to the debate.

“I don't think Colm Cooper will be really worried what Joe Brolly says. I think they should meet up and take their trophy cabinets along for the chat. Won't be much chatting then from Brolly.”

CO’K: I’m not sure many cafes will take you if you’re carrying a trophy cabinet about.

On to matters Antrim now and ‘The Real Crazy Legs’ (he gave us a choice between this or his real name, which was no contest really) was given a shock by the county board chairman’s idea of a covered stand at Corrigan Park.

“Did I seriously just read that right? In The Irish News last Friday, did our county chairman Collie Donnelly genuinely say he was going to lobby The Ulster Council for money for a 500/ 600 seater covered stand for Corrigan Park?

“Corrigan Park is the home ground of... wait for it... his own club.

“I wouldn't disagree with the idea of building a covered stand at a club ground to host minor or u21 and some senior county league games with a redeveloped Casement Park hosting the more prestigious county matches.

“However to announce that Corrigan Park is the preferred venue for this project without any visible form of consultation or research into where the best location would be is irresponsible and irrational.

“Yes Corrigan Park has hosted Antrim's hurlers and footballers in recent seasons but Creggan has also been a home venue for the footballers. Ballycastle, Loughgiel and Cushendall have all hosted Antrim hurling matches and hosted them very well.

“Given that the soon to be (fingers crossed) redeveloped Casement Park is located in the heart of West Belfast shouldn't Mr Donnelly be looking to invest in a covered stand in North Antrim? Or maybe you could make the argument that Ballymena is the ideal place for such a facility, given that anyone in county Antrim could leave their home and be at the venue within half an hour or so?”

CO’K: It all comes back to how much usage of, and freedom over, the regional stadium Antrim county board will have. If they are only going to be handed the keys for county finals then another option in Belfast would be something of a priority, given the need to keep promoting the game in the city. But it is a fair point about both grounds then potentially being within 2 miles of each other and nothing in north Antrim.

And finally ‘Desmond from Ardboe’ isn’t happy with the construct of the All-Ireland hurling Championships.

“Amidst the talk about the Ulster Hurling final this coming weekend being a dead rubber due to preparations for the Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Championship games, perhaps the most logical thing to do for hurling is to scrap the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups, as well as the All-Ireland Under-21 hurling championship, and replace it with one All-Ireland B championship which will also allow the Under-21 sides from the Elite counties to enter.

“Another thing to do is to ensure that those from elite counties who switch allegiance to another county remain with their adopted county. The rugby-style rules for eligibility would be vulnerable to exploitation. However, these ideas seem too much like common sense for the Croke Park gravy-trainers to implement.”

CO’K: Maybe I’m in a minority but I think hurling’s structures are not far off what football should aspire to. Offering the lower tier counties a proper pathway to success through the Meagher, Rackard and Ring Cups has helped grow the game in counties that we didn’t even know had a hurling team. The finals in Croke Park and live on TV have been invaluable to the growth of the competitions so I can’t say I’m in favour of your idea for change.