Joe Brolly is back.
Well, that didn’t take long.
Just when we thought we’d seen the last of the straight-talking Derry man, he goes and shocks us all, returning under the one pretence he so valiantly protested against.
A pay-per-view subscription service.
Yes, Brolly has been announced as eir Sport’s newest GAA pundit ahead of their coverage of the 2020 Allianz Leagues.
It goes against everything the former Sunday Game analyst stands for. Therefore, we’ve every right to chastise him.
He doesn’t care, though, and at the end of it all, bullshit or not, you can’t help but admire the honesty with which he speaks of himself, his public fall out with RTÉ or his decision to regale on a stance that set him apart from other pundits.
He claims to have backtracked on previous opinions surrounding GAA and pay-walls because the GAA had rejected his arguments and that ultimately, not enough people care about the issue.
“I think the GAA has rejected my arguments completely. It’s clear there’s a whole new landscape for viewers.
“I suppose increasingly, I was feeling that you’re howling into the wilderness. You say it to any of the Gaelic footballers or hurlers who are here today that there’s a problem with eir or with Sky. They’d say ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’
“Part of it obviously is that I was very hurt about what happened with RTÉ, and I don’t want to leave it at that because I love the public conversation on the telly.
“I also like opportunities. If somebody asked me to do something, I’d say yes like a parrot because you never know what you’d miss otherwise.”
When pressed on whether he had changed his view, Brolly delved deeper into the issues he faced with the state broadcaster.
“I got the hatchet in RTÉ, which for me was very shocking. I was told by the head of sport that it was unforgivable and unprofessional that I said to Pat Spillane at 11 minutes past three in the drawn game, ‘will you stop pulling my arm?’
“I said ‘are ya serious, have you lost your mad marbles.’ And he said, ‘no that can’t be tolerated. Your contract will not be renewed.’
“It was clearly a personal thing there and I had felt that from the moment the new head of sport had come in. All of a sudden, we were being micromanaged. It was all about statistics. I never saw the previous heads of sport. You might get a text on a Monday morning saying ‘that was terrific telly.’ But I never saw them.
“It became very micromanaged and very risk-averse. I was being told, ‘you can’t say that, and don’t talk about that.’
“I got a script for the All-Ireland final. I took a few screenshots so I wouldn’t doubt my own sanity. ‘You say this and this, and your video package will be this and this.’ I rang up said you need a newsreader or a narrator.”
Brolly refused to admit he’d changed his views but rather he’d lost the argument.
“The argument has been lost. I’m a GAA man and the GAA is a democracy. I’m very pally with Jarlath Burns who is going to be the next GAA president. He said, ‘this is done, this is set in stone. This is never changing.’
“Congress had three or four very half-hearted attempts to try and change the situation, all being emphatically rejected. I’m a lone voice really. It’s going nowhere, it’s dead.
“It becomes pointless, the argument is lost. My children for example [would say] ‘what are you talking about?'”
But what of his relationship with RTÉ? Well, it looks irreparable. Brolly didn’t mince his words when talking of the current regime running operations in Montrose.
Brolly feels his time was coming to an end regardless of what happened and feels Colm O’Rourke’s time with the state broadcaster may be coming to a close soon too.
“Colm’s on the chopping block as well. He’s got strong opinions. He’s a man’s man. He refuses to lick arse. You see that in the WhatsApp group, it’s hilarious, you see the boys who are the arselickers, it’s all, ‘Great point, Declan (McBennett, RTÉ Head of Sport). Oh, that’s a great point. Brilliant point. Oh, thanks for that’.
“Every now and again, you might get a WhatsApp saying, ‘Kerry’s forwards have really improved at the start of the second half’. I would say, ‘In other news, a bear shits in the woods’. Maybe something like that for the craic. This sort of stuff went down like a lead balloon. I stopped putting anything into it at all.”
He later said:
“No. It was definitely coming to an end. I was just being hemmed in and hemmed in.
“For the replay this year, it came as a kick in the teeth for him (O’Rourke) after 30 years, instead of him being brought in, whatever reason he wasn’t there in the first place, to bring in Stephen Rochford just typifies the banality, the blandness, the controlling culture that’s there.
“You bring in a safe guy who’s not going to say anything, he can go through statistics but who gives a fuck? Realistically, who gives a fuck? We talked about it afterwards, ‘Jesus, did you hear that yesterday, it was such fun’. I disagree with that, I have to say.
“That’s the essence of it. Punditry is not an important thing, in society, but if it has any importance at all, it’s that you speak your mind. Freedom of expression, that’s the point of it. Increasingly what you’re getting is a controlled, robotic approach where expression of a view, it’s, ‘Hold on, hold on, hold on’.
“Before that, I was told with the previous heads of sport, ‘The stage is yours, that’s why you’re here. Don’t offend against the laws of libel’, which I never did”.
Well Joe, the stage is yours. The platform may be different but please keep offending.