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OPINION: Bizarre Brolly and Whelan analysis highlights need for new kind of Sunday Game



Sunday Game pundits Joe Brolly and Ciarán Whelan have faced a backlash following their half-time analysis during last Sunday’s All-Ireland senior football final, and rightly so for my money.

Despite being presented with fairly conclusive video evidence to the contrary, the pair somehow asserted that Dublin defender Jonny Cooper should not have received a second yellow card for his 35th-minute challenge on Kerry youngster David Clifford (pictured above).

Whelan said there was no foul. Brolly said it should have been a free to Dublin. Presenter Joanne Cantwell and former Kerry player Pat Spillane tried to point out Cooper’s infraction but the Dubliner and the Derryman were having none of it. Even those of us who were at the game had heard all about the bizarre exchange by the time we left Croke Park.

Here’s how it all went down. (If you’ve already seen the clip, feel free to skip this part. I wouldn’t recommend subjecting yourself to it a second time.)


BROLLY: This is a free out. Clifford manoeuvres his body around to keep him off him. Cooper tries to get around to get at the ball and instead of it being a free out, it’s a free in.

CANTWELL: He (Cooper) is holding his arm there.


BROLLY: Never in a million years.

WHELAN: It’s just two lads coming together, going for a ball. Simple as that.

SPILLANE: I think anyone knows that I’ll call something exactly as I see it, and I’m not wearing a Kerry cap. In that incident, what Clifford did for that second booking… Clifford used his body to shield the ball and what happened was Jonny Cooper grabbed him by the arm and pulled him down. It’s a yellow card. Two yellows equal red. He had to go.


SPILLANE: They’re the facts.

WHELAN: No way. That’s a terrible decision.

BROLLY: The referee must clearly have been influenced by the propaganda that has been coming from Kerry. I am so surprised because David (Gough) is so clear-minded… Clifford knows he’s on a yellow, he’s holding him off, he’s blocking him off the play.

SPILLANE: He’s not!

BROLLY: Hold on, Patrick. We confidently expected that it was a free out. In fact, I think you thought that as well, Joanne. People were shocked when all of a sudden a yellow card was administered.

JOANNE: Ciarán, the sending off is for persistent fouling, that is one foul you’re seeing there.

BROLLY: That’s not a foul. That’s a free out.

WHELAN: The way I look at it, I actually don’t think it’s even a foul. I think it’s two guys going for the ball… That’s a ‘play on’ in my opinion… But listen, we’re all going to be biased. Pat’s going to be biased to Kerry. I’m going be biased to Dublin. That’s the way we are. That’s our make-ups.

SPILLANE: Ciarán, I’m not going to be biased! I’ve never been biased to Kerry. I call something exactly as I see it.

* * *

CANTWELL: Ciarán, a straightforward question: does Cooper, or does he not, hold the arm of David Clifford in that incident?

WHELAN: I think he’s going in for the ball, Joanne…

CANTWELL: But does he hold his arm?

WHELAN: No, I don’t think he does. I don’t think he does.


There are two possibilities here: either Whelan genuinely didn’t see Cooper’s foul, which raises doubts about his ability to read a game a football, or he did see the foul but he didn’t call it straight, which raises doubts about his impartiality.

He doubled down on the controversial take in his column in Monday’s Herald, before backing down later that day on the Independent’s GAA podcast. Referee David Gough was “technically right” to send Cooper off, the ex-Dublin player eventually admitted.

I’m not sure how he suddenly reached that conclusion 24 hours after the fact. It’s not like he didn’t get enough looks at it on the Sunday.

Brolly, meanwhile, doesn’t really warrant too much discussion by this point. Like Eamon Dunphy before him, he jumped the shark a long time ago with his deliberately contrarian contributions. But look, I’m sure RTÉ are more than happy to let him rant away, knowing full well that he’ll rile enough people to keep #TheSundayGame trending on Twitter.

And therein lies the problem. The Dunphy Formula worked so well for RTÉ for so long, and Brolly has worked similar black magic on the Gaelic football side of things down through the years. From RTÉ’s perspective, why would they change a winning recipe?

Well, is it still a winning recipe? Surely we can only get baited by the same old trick – the intentionally inflammatory remark – so many times before we realise that, in actual fact, we – not Brolly – are the fools in this dynamic.


When assessing The Sunday Game, it’s important to take into account the radical changes that have taken place within the sport itself over the past decade or so. Football these days is so technical. More than ever, games hinge on tactics, which seem to be getting more and more intricate by the minute. If experts should be discussing anything at half-time, it should be kickouts and presses and formations.

That’s where their insight is actually useful. They’re at the game. They have played the game at the highest level. Tell the rest of us what we can’t see at home.

Analysts on The Sunday Game do engage with this type of material, and some of them are quite good at it, but far too often it seems as though agendas and posturing take centre stage. Last Sunday was a prime example. The panel spent a ridiculous amount of time bickering over a straightforward incident that shouldn’t have been up for debate in the first place.

If we wanted to see a bunch of grown-ups talking over each other and acting like children, we might as well switch over to the BBC and watch the House of Commons.


Sky Sports got rid of Richard Keys and Andy Gray back in 2011 and replaced them with the likes of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher. The move seemed risky at the time but it ended up completely changing the face of soccer broadcasting in England. Neville and Carragher brought an entirely new level of analysis. They went far deeper than their predecessors and delivered it all without a hint of bullshit. Fans lapped it up.

This myth that sports fans don’t get, or don’t want to get, the tactical side of the game has been completely dispelled by this stage. Soccer supporters in 2019 are hungry for deep analysis, and Gaelic football fans are no different.

The proof is in the pudding. Sky Sports’ coverage of Gaelic football has earned a reputation for being more analytical than RTÉ’s, and many viewers actually prefer watching games on Sky for that very reason. Imagine that? Our national broadcaster has controlled GAA coverage since the 60s and within a couple of years of the market opening up, it has been overtaken by a British company. If that doesn’t spur RTÉ into making changes, nothing will.

After Brolly and Whelan’s showing last weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of previously loyal viewers voted with their remotes and defected to Sky for the replay.


Possible return to campus for college students



By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

The announcement by the Department of Education this week, that the Leaving Cert results will be issued on Friday, September 3, was followed by confirmation from the Central Applications Office that CAO Round 1 offers will be issued online, four days later on Tuesday, September 7 at 2pm.

This is about three weeks later than normal, although it is earlier than the 2020 dates. Coinciding with the release of these dates comes the news from Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, that it is the priority of Government to get college students back on campus for the 2021/2022 academic year. Because of the later issue of Leaving Cert results and CAO offers, this means that First Year students will start college a couple of weeks later than those who are returning to college in Second, Third and Fourth Year.

From the point of social distancing, the staggered start may be an advantage, as we will still be living with certain restrictions due to COVID-19. There are a number of contributing factors what will influence a safe and successful return to the college campus for students according to Minister Harris. They include the roll-out and take-up of vaccinations in the college-age cohort by September, the use of rapid testing on campus which has been run as a pilot in several universities this year, and a varied approach to face-to-face lectures. It is hoped that smaller classes, practicals and tutorials can be operated as before with social distancing while the larger lectures may need to be facilitated using a blended approach. It is also felt that if cafés, restaurants and bars are open everywhere else, there is no reason why they can’t open on campus. This of course is all based on vaccinations and public health guidelines.


A big concern for First Year students following the announcements is the fact that they will be looking for accommodation later than all other students. This is an issue every single year because when CAO offers are issued, many students get offers for colleges in locations where they have not secured accommodation. Naturally it is of particular concern to rural students and mirrors a greater societal shortage of accommodation. Minister Harris has also stated that he is bringing a proposal to Cabinet in the coming weeks to implement legislation which means that the owners of purpose-built student accommodation will only be allowed to charge rents a month in advance rather than insisting on payment of rent for half of the college year, something which has put enormous strain on students and their families over the years.
So, while any kind of certainty surrounding a return to ‘normal’ college life isn’t possible, it is both hopeful and exciting for new and returning college students to be able to look forward to the next college year with the prospect of getting to enjoy a real college experience and all that has to offer.


I will be hosting a free webinar for Leaving Cert parents on June 16 at 7pm on ‘How to help your son/daughter with CAO Change of Mind and other career options’ ahead of the CAO deadline on July 1. 

To register see links on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @mycareerplan or email me on 

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Deadline for health and well-being fest fast approaching

Friday June 25, the closing date to register an interest in hosting an activity or event during the 2021 Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest, is fast approaching. This year’s #KerryMHWFest will run from October 9 to 16. It is held annually to highlight World Mental Health Day on October 10. Organised by an interagency […]




Friday June 25, the closing date to register an interest in hosting an activity or event during the 2021 Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest, is fast approaching.

This year’s #KerryMHWFest will run from October 9 to 16. It is held annually to highlight World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Organised by an interagency steering group, the key focus of the Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest is to promote mental health and well-being in Kerry through a fun and interactive programme of events.

“The Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest aims to create awareness of, and schedule events that empower people to engage with the Five Ways to Well-being – Connect | Give | Take Notice | Keep Learning | Be Active – as well as raising awareness of the available supports and services in the county,” Chair of the Steering Committee, Donagh Hennebry, said.

“The Fest has a wide reach across Kerry and we want to continue to build on its success in 2021. But we can’t do this without you! We are inviting anyone who is interested in helping us achieve our goal, by hosting an event(s) during #KerryMHWFest, to register online as soon as possible.”

The organising committee is a collaboration between Connecting for Life Kerry, Healthy Kerry, Kerry County Council, the HSE, NEWKD, SKDP, Kerry Mental Health Association, Jigsaw Kerry, Munster Technological University/Kerry, and Kerry Volunteer Centre.

To register your interest to host an event for the 2021 Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest, visit before close of business on Friday, June 25.

For more information about registration, promotion, or the Fest in general, please contact the interagency steering group at:

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Free and subsidised higher education courses for Kerry

  11 free and subsidised higher education places have been announced for Kerry under the Springboard+ 2021 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 initiatives. The courses, which open for applications today (Wednesday), will run at Munster Technological University Kerry. The courses on offer include a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Management & Practice, a Certificate in […]





11 free and subsidised higher education places have been announced for Kerry under the Springboard+ 2021 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 initiatives. The courses, which open for applications today (Wednesday), will run at Munster Technological University Kerry.

The courses on offer include a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Management & Practice, a Certificate in Retail Food Service Operations and a Postgraduate Diploma in Bioeconomy with Business.

Over 10,000 places are available across both programmes nationwide in 2021.

Springboard+ provides free courses for people who are unemployed, people who have taken time out of work or education to raise their families or care for loved ones, or people who want to upskill. Now in its 10th year, over 75,000 people have benefited from Springboard+ to date.

Courses under the HCI Pillar 1 programme are aimed at graduates and offer incentivised places for them to reskill in areas of skills shortage and emerging technologies. These are being run alongside, and complementary to, the Springboard+ offerings.

For those in employment, the Government will fund 90% of the cost of a Springboard+ or HCI Pillar 1 course. The programmes are managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

Launching the programme, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD said, “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to ensure that people have the skills they need”.


Candidates who wish to participate will find full details on the approved courses on Experienced guidance counsellors will be available to advise potential Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 participants on their options on the freephone Springboard+ helpline: 1800 303 523. The helpline is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.


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