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OPINION | Time to Step Forward and Challenge Joe

Wednesday 08.04.2015
Team Talk Mag

Let’s get one thing clear right from the start. This isn’t about defending ourselves by pointing out that other counties are worse than we are. It isn’t that we are just feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s cheap point scoring and that’s not what this article is about. There are those who would say the best way to handle Joe Brolly is to ignore him. They would say that we should stop reading his articles if we are annoyed and switch off the television when he’s on. I’m not one to subscribe to that train of thought.

You see amidst all the bluster I believe Joe used to make the odd valid point from time to time. It’s just that those nuggets are now harder to find in a sea of bad taste and more recently unwarranted abuse towards some of the most respected GAA men on the island. As a barrister Joe is more than capable of making a point. The craft of the barrister is all about trying to influence the minds of those watching and listening. Joe has skilfully transferred those skills to another two aspects of his life. He has done a serious amount of good work in attempting to influence the minds of the policy makers with the ‘Opt for Life’ campaign. This campaign quite rightly aims to establish a ‘family consent’ society for organ donation.

The world of GAA media has also offered Joe another opportunity to influence minds. His approach to this aspect would appear however to be somewhat different. There’s a ‘no holds barred’ methodology to his GAA work. Joe would have us believe that he cares as passionately about his GAA as he does about his ‘Opt for Life’ campaign. His approach to engaging key stake holders in the ‘Opt for Life’ campaign could not be more different from the way he handles GAA issues. While the full time professional politicians are treated with ‘kid gloves’ the part time GAA managers and players get the “cheating”, “he should be sacked”, “forget about him as a man” and “F**k off and play behind closed doors” language.

Joe contextualises these statements by claiming that he’s only speaking out because he loves the GAA and that no man is more passionate about the future of the game than him. Does that give him enough cover though to continue with the personal insults? Should he continue to go unchallenged when he utters these insults? The Sean Cavanagh rant has been well documented. No response from the GAA. Last week he used disgusting and unwarranted language on national radio to tell Mickey Harte and his team where to go because he didn’t like their style of play. That brought the “F**k off and play behind closed doors” statement. Unchallenged.

On Sunday in a national newspaper he lambasted Philip Jordan for “defacing” the 2003 All Ireland final. Again unchallenged. He went on to say that Tyrone forwards “systematically” pulled down Meath forwards in 2013 and that “Mickey Harte should be sacked for what he has peddled in the last three years”. Once again unchallenged. We can also go back to Tyrone’s win over Kerry in the 2013 All Ireland minor semi final. On that occasion he claimed that the “dark arts were taught openly at Tyrone underage coaching sessions.” Once again unchallenged.

While he continues to go unchallenged it becomes more and more plausible that Tyrone GAA accept the charges as laid down. Why should that continue to be the case? Tyrone GAA is a huge business in terms of volunteer hours, income, expenditure, value to the communities it serves and the number of young people that commit to and play our games. What message are we sending out if we cannot openly defend our own people? Why can’t we step forward and call time on Brolly’s offensive accusations and base rhetoric as he jumps from one media outlet to the next to belittle and insult managers and players time and time again?

It’s not a Tyrone v Derry thing either. I’ve spoken to a number of Derry GAA people recently who instantly distance themselves from his statements claiming he doesn’t represent Derry GAA people. National GAA figures are of the same opinion. If Joe wants to rid Gaelic Football of all it’s woes then he’s intelligent enough to fight for those changes in the committee rooms and the floor of congress like everyone else.

It’s unlikely that Joe will ever take this under his notice but if by some small chance that he does here’s a last message to him. Please spare us the ‘self righteous Tyrone people’ line Joe. Come up with something a little more positive and becoming of a GAA analyst of your stature.

In 2013 Joe was invited to speak at the GAA Congress about his ‘Opt for Life’ campaign. In that speech he spoke about the GAA being “separated from other societies by the quality of neighbourliness and community“. He mentioned that phrase not once but several times during that speech. Joe also spoke about how “everyone in the GAA knows each other and cares for each other”. Strange then that he seeks to lambast those lads he cares about so publicly. Strange that he picked last Sunday to drive home his points knowing all too well the circumstances within Tyrone. Frustrating that he’s not called to task when he blatantly insults one of our own.




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