OpinionPat Spillane

Pat Spillane vents his anger on his 'colleagues' from the Sunday Game

Spillane: 'Jim Gavin is having a laugh and Dolan and Brolly tried to throw me under the bus'
Spillane: 'Jim Gavin is having a laugh and Dolan and Brolly tried to throw me under the bus'

Leaving Croke Park last Sunday, I certainly didn’t think that by the time I arrived home I would be trending on Twitter. Jim Gavin’s personalised attack on me in his post-match press conference even made the main news bulletin on RTE television. And the storm really gathered momentum in the wake of the comments made by Joe Brolly and Dessie Dolan on the Sunday Game. By Monday my name was dominating the GAA headlines.

I was the subject of a front page story in one daily newspaper and ever since then I have been bombarded with requests from radio stations and newspapers for interviews.
Today I am breaking my silence on the story and setting the record straight.
 
Of course, Jim Gavin is entitled to defend his players, but his personalised rant against me had little to do with Diarmuid Connolly. Gavin’s intervention was inspired by the well-worn coaching mantra ‘control the narrative’. 
 
Every leading coach in the world, from Alex Ferguson to Jose Mourinho, has deployed it and essentially it is a tool designed to bully the media. It also has other benefits. By refusing to do one-on-one interviews with the broadcast media after the game, Gavin was creating a siege mentality.
 
Now it’s a case of ‘us against them’, which is the perfect motivation for his team as they chase the three-in-row.
 
Remember Jimmy McGuinness used a similar ploy when I suggested no player was worthy of a Man-of-the-Match award after Donegal’s win over Antrim in a preliminary round Ulster Championship game in 2011. For the rest of the summer McGuinness milked my remark for all it was worth, suggesting that I had disrespected Donegal football.
 
I can now reveal that this is not the first time the Dublin management team has tried to influence the narrative on the Sunday Game when one of their players was the subject of a discussion on the programme.  
 
A member of the team management once texted a panellist on the programme warning that if an issue was dealt with in a certain way it would have an impact on the team’s relationship with the programme. It was a definite ‘shot across the bow’.
 
 
So am I to blame for getting Diarmuid Connolly a 12-week ban? Was I out to get him? Did I do a hatchet job on his character? No, no and no is the short answer to all three allegations. It’s utter nonsense to suggest otherwise. Our job as analysts on the Sunday Game – particularly on the Sunday night programme – is to address  the major talking points from the weekend’s games.
 
Obviously the incident involving Connolly and the linesman was the chief talking point that weekend. Don’t forget that by the time Colm O’Rourke and I made our comments it had been aired extensively, not just on Sky, which covered the game live, but all over social media.
 
Not alone would it have been a complete dereliction of our duty had we not highlighted the incident, we would have been the laughing stock of the sporting community. I fail to see how any of my remarks impacted in any way on Connolly’s character. I merely stated that he broke the rules and would suffer the consequences.
 
I did say: “You prod a bear, you get a reaction. You prod Diarmuid Connolly, you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly and you always get a reaction.” 
 
I would have thought that comment was merely stating the obvious.
 
As regards Gavin’s comments about freedom of expression and the Irish constitution, all I can say is ‘Jim, you must be having a laugh’. Furthermore, I’m at a total loss to figure out how my former profession as a teacher had, as Gavin suggested, anything to do with my remarks.
 
According to Gavin we should have waited for ‘due process’ before making our comments. So does he expect every media outlet to wait until the Central Hearings Committee hand down their verdict in every case before they comment on it? The logic of his argument is so flawed that it reinforces my view he was working to a different agenda than just defending Connolly.
 
Gavin suggested that the referee hadn’t signed off on his match report when the Sunday Game was aired. Does he have evidence to support that claim? Anyway, I doubt whether the Central Competitions Control Committee take a blind bit of notice to what I or Colm O’Rourke have to say on any issue.
 
As somebody high up in the GAA once remarked to me: “Whatever you suggest, we’ll do the opposite.”
 
Finally, as for Gavin’s contention that I was reading from a prepared statement, this is simply untrue. The only thing I had in front of me was the exact wording of the relevant rule which I believed Connolly had broken. I had just about digested Gavin’s outburst when I tuned in to the Sunday Game just in time to see my ‘colleagues’ Dessie Dolan and Joe Brolly attempt to push me under the bus.
 
 
According to them, not alone was I responsible for getting Connolly suspended, but I had deliberately set out as a Kerryman to achieve that goal. The Sunday Game has always operated on a very simple premise: The panellists offer their views based on what they have seen in front of them.
 
Brolly and Dolan broke that golden rule by offering opinions which had absolutely no basis in fact. I was particularly taken aback by Dessie’s comments. Joe’s personalised comments are par for the course at this stage, so I wasn’t really surprised by the tone of his remarks. 
 
As for Des Cahill, while he did try to act as an honest broker, I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t one of his better performances. I believed at the time and I still do that my comments were balanced; they didn’t constitute a personal attack on Connolly and I didn’t act in the role of a prosecution barrister. I merely stated the facts.
 
By far the most serious and potentially damaging accusation levelled at me by the panellists was that I tried to get Connolly suspended in order to help Kerry win the All-Ireland. I have been a pundit for over a quarter of a century now and I’ve always prided myself on my impartiality. I’ve always called things exactly as I see them and I don’t have an agenda. As a result I’m probably more disliked in my native Kerry than in any other county in Ireland because of the negative comments I have made about Kerry football over the years.
 
Anyway, on a practical level, how does a 12-week ban on Diarmuid Connolly help Kerry win the All-Ireland! Is anybody seriously suggesting that Dublin won’t reach the All-Ireland semi-final without him? They most assuredly did not miss him last Sunday. 
 
Anyway, Dublin and Kerry cannot meet until the All-Ireland final, when Connolly will have long served his ban.
 
Brolly never ceases to amaze me. Over the years he has launched personalised attacks on Sean Cavanagh, Kieran McGeeney and referee Padraig Hughes, as well as making a scandalous personal comment about TV commentator Marty Morrissey.
 
Yet again this is a case of him going in with all studs showing and I certainly won’t be lectured by him on this issue. Incidentally, I find it both amusing and puzzling that although Colm O’Rourke’s comments were remarkably similar to my own, he was never mentioned on the Sunday Game programme. 
 
Now that the dust has settled, I believe that not alone did Jim Gavin let his mask slip for the first time, he conceded an own goal which didn’t reflect well on him or Dublin football. By personalising the issue, his argument was dead in the water before he was finished speaking.
 
As for my Sunday Game ‘buddies’ they played the man not the ball and lost. Since the show was broadcast I have received numerous phone calls, from other Sunday Game analysts and RTE staff who wanted to dissociate themselves from what went on during the show.
 
I wasn’t on the sideline in Portlaoise on the night of the Dublin v Carlow game; I wasn’t even in Portlaoise. I didn’t push the linesman and I didn’t get Diarmuid Connolly suspended.
 
So my advice to all interested parties is to go and seek your scapegoat elsewhere – my conscience is clear.
 
And as for Joe’s suggestion made on the Independent.ie GAA podcast  ‘Throw-in’ that I gave a ‘very disloyal interview’ about him at the Galway Races, I have a very simple response: I have never been to the Galway Races.