Need for glass half full punditry not half empty

With the leaving cert results out last week, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic about my own efforts at it. It’s fair to say it took a back seat to any sport that was being played at the time but it went okay in the end.

A subject I was particularly worried about was Irish, but I had a plan. Just learn an answer off as best as possible and no matter what way the question was phrased, come at it at an angle that would allow that memorised work of art to be used. Foolproof!

When I listen to some GAA pundits at the minute it strikes me that they have taken the same approach. Pre rehearsed opinions are put forward no matter the question posed. And most of it, unfortunately, is negative.

Especially when it comes to Gaelic Football. To be fair to the hurling pundits, bar the excommunication that comes with the dreaded “7th defender/sweeper”, the commentary is generally positive and accentuates all that is good about the game and the players involved.

Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 5, Cusack Park, Ennis, Co. Clare 17/6/2018 Clare vs Limerick RTE’s John Mullane and Brian Carthy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Whether it’s John Mullane or Tommy Walsh spontaneously combusting about a score, Brendan Cummins appreciating the sophistication of puckout systems or Dalo’s eyebrow raising joy at the hits going in, they all help to promote the game and add to the spectacle. Of course they reference poor or foul play, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

The opposite is true of some of the Gaelic Football fraternity. Take last weeks Dublin vs Mayo semi final. Watching The Sunday Game analysis, it was very much of the “glass half empty” variety.

When breaking down the Con O’Callaghan goals, it was errors from Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle respectively that were highlighted.

RTE Sport GAA Championship Launch 2018, Donnybrook, Dublin 6/5/2018 Ciaran Whelan, Colm Cooper and Sean Cavanagh with the Sam Maguire Cup Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Gary Carr

Why couldn’t Sean Cavanagh or Ciaran Whelan have focused on the “backdoor cut” move that O’Callaghan made to create the chance? Or to rave about the sublime 40 yard kickpass that Ciaran Kilkenny delivered with absolute precision for Dublins 2nd goal?

There was the usual Mayo bashing by Joe Brolly in the paper that weekend. The “celebrity losers” had their character questioned having falling short of possibly the greatest team of all time.

Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 3/6/2018 Waterford vs Tipperary RTE’s Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Brolly is a really intelligent guy, someone who could easily put forward technical and tactical areas where Mayo and others could improve. Why not go that route instead of the belittling which we’ve heard time and again. These pundits are legends of the game, many with All Ireland medals.

And in the case of Joe, someone who has done unbelievable work in the promotion of organ donation. But when it comes to bringing something new to the analysis of Gaelic Football they are falling short. 

A few weeks previous you had the head scratching situation where Colm O’Rourke, prior to a Donegal game, felt the need to put forward his argument why Michael Murphy was overrated and hadn’t turned up in the big games.

A man who captained Donegal to an All Ireland, scoring 1-4 and picking up the man of the match award. Who sacrifices his own game and stat sheet so that Donegal have a better chance of winning. Who is always humble about the huge part he has played in Donegals resurgence in the last decade. Yes, let’s cut that guy down to size.

In American Football, the best wide receivers get doubled up on. Sometimes they don’t even get thrown the ball as a result. But they accept this, as they know it helps their team by allowing single coverage on other wide receivers, or allows the team to run the ball more effectively. Team players.

Why couldn’t this have been the angle taken by Colm. It just so happened that Joe was Murphy’s defense attorney in this case. Maybe he just needs someone with a negative viewpoint to argue with in order to be the champion of good!

Cheap shots and highlighting player errors could easily be replaced by enlightening the public of the finer points. Instead of the copy and paste generalities of the analysis, why not be a bit more innovative.

GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 27/8/2017 Dublin vs Tyrone Sean Cavanagh of Tyrone Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

I’d love to see a gamezone where a Sean Cavanagh gets up off his chair and gives a breakdown of his trademark shimmy and shot, the thought process, the skills he developed to perfect it.

Or a Gooch or Conor McManus pulling Tomas Ó Sé up and using him to show how they used their body to create that yard of space to get a shot off. Or a Kieran Donaghy showing how basketball is having such a huge influence on football now, and breaking down that back door cut.

People have a thirst for this stuff. The viewers, listeners and readers take their cue from those tasked with analysing Gaelic Football. Being positive doesn’t mean ignoring the negative. Rather overcoming it.

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