THIRTY YEARS on and it’s still the soundtrack of the GAA championship. Other television stations have secured broadcasting rights and encroached on viewership figures, but we always seem to gravitate back to The Sunday Game.
Maybe it’s the warmth that radiates from presenter Michael Lyster or the energy surrounding the panelists that keeps us coming back. Or perhaps it’s the eternal link to our childhood etched in the intro music. In any case, there will always be something about The Sunday Game that would make us grieve a bit if it ever left us.
2016 was another dour championship overall but the flagship GAA programme still managed to eke out some significant moments throughout their transmissions.
Colm O’Rourke and Joe Brolly deriding Tipperary Football
At the outset of the football championship, it was reported that Tipperary had lost some 11 players from the previous year’s panel. Work commitments, personal reasons and a preference for hurling were among the causes for the drop-off.
But Liam Kearns managed to orchestrate a Tipperary charge that would not only exceed expectations, but obliterate them. It started with an upset against Cork and ended with a respectable defeat to Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final. You can throw in an emphatic All-Ireland quarter-final win over Galway in there as well, just to illustrate the strength of their achievement.
But at half-time in the Munster final against Kerry, Joe Brolly and Colm O’Rourke were already planning Tipperary’s funeral.
Amidst the sniggering, Colm O’Rourke managed to blurt out:
It’s not a proper championship match in the context of say a Donegal v Monaghan game where every ball was fought for.
Omissions on the Team of the Year
Two notable exclusions from The Sunday Game Team of the Year sparked division online.
Of course social media should never be perceived as the most accurate way of gauging the general consensus, but conducting surveys everyday is a strain on resources so it will have to do.
After the team was announced, the irksome reaction on Twitter focused on the absence of Tyrone’s Peter Harte and Ryan McHugh of Donegal from the final cut.
Joe Brolly’s strange obsession with Mayo
This isn’t necessarily a moment, rather a sequence of incidents which revolve around Joe Brolly’s peculiar interest in Mayo. His Sunday Independent columns tend to contain offensive references to Mayo football but his actions as a Sunday Game pundit sometimes expose a side of him that is longing for Mayo to win the All-Ireland.
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On the day of the drawn All-Ireland final, Brolly produced a Mayo jersey and vowed to wear it if Mayo won the game. In explaining his inspiration for the gesture, Brolly told this heartwarming story.
I’ll tell you a story. A beautiful young girl – Laura Donnellan – before she died of cystic fibrosis, she asked me ‘I want you to do something for me’. She had very little time to live. She said ‘Look, if Mayo win the All-Ireland, I want you to wear the Mayo jersey in the Sunday Game studio after the final whistle’.
“Her mother reminded me during the week. She said ‘I hope you’ll be faithful to your promise to my daughter. She’ll be watching down’. The Mayo board actually sent me the jersey – the number 13 which I will wear. It gives you an idea of how important it is and how special it is to everyone in Mayo. The team are bound to understand that this is the time and it’s more than just a medal and more than just a cup.”
When picking his GAA moment of the year after Dublin finally settled the tie, Brolly paid tribute to another Mayo person – this time Shane Halligan, the Mayo kitman. Halligan was close to death last year, before being rescued by a lung transplant. Brolly’s own personal history with organ donation is well documented and he told the studio that he visits Halligan every time Mayo are in Croke Park.
“That transformation from death to life I think it’s something very special. Gaelic football in the end is something that’s just fun for us but that’s serious business.”
All-Ireland final day is perhaps one of the few occasions when the Irish diaspora feel closest to home. And when commentators read out the names of those watching/listening from all pockets of the world, the distance shortens a little bit more because no matter where you are in the world, we’re all following the same game together.
Marty Morrissey’s speech ahead of this year’s hurling All-Ireland final had a unifying effect on us all.
Pat Spillane advertising his coaching services
It was a bizarre moment during a Sunday Game highlights show in June when Pat Spillane put his name forward for inter-county management.
He begins by verbally laying out his credentials for management before declaring that Cork’s current slump could be revitalised by the assistance of an outside manager.
But he doesn’t quite take the significant step to directly advertise himself for the job.
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