Off The Ball off target?

Yeah, sometimes they’re a bit smug, a bit self-satisfied, and prone to laughing a bit too much at their own jokes.

  Politicians? Nah.

  I’m talking about the Off The Ball ‘team’ in Newstalk.

  But, even taking the annoying bits about Ger Gilroy, Joe Molloy and colleagues into account, I’m a big fan.

  In fact I listen to Off the Ball as much as possible. Frequently it’s great radio, and it’s been a thoroughly refreshing new approach to sports broadcasting/commentary/analysis.

  Even when the lads are being laddish, as sometimes happens.

  Mostly, however, they provide excellent, insightful, entertaining radio.

  And while they may be off the ball, they never seem to be off the air.

Still, I was a bit disappointed with the tone of a segment on Monday evening when presenter Joe Molloy and guest Anthony Moyles were quick to characterise Roscommon’s start to the season in the context of there being ‘trouble in the camp.’

  Molloy opened a short discussion on Roscommon v Donegal by saying it’s a big year ahead for Kevin McStay (fair enough) and then adding “it doesn’t seem like a happy camp.”

  One of them said it was “a mess” and that there seems to be a lot of discontent.

  Noting the absence of many key players from last season, the presenter suggested there was obviously “a lot going on” behind the scenes in Roscommon.

  Moyles took up the theme…Roscommon had their hands on a pool of young talent, he mused, but now it seemed as if we had dropped a grenade into that pool.

  Ouch!

  Now, let’s be fair, one can understand where the guys were coming from. But to characterise Roscommon’s set-up as “a mess” is, I think, just unfair. 

  Actually I think the Off the Ball guys felt the same themselves, because a few minutes in, they checked themselves…Gilroy wondering aloud if they were being hard on Roscommon/are ill-informed.

  (Molloy: “Am I overblowing the discontent?”).

  Moyles was inclined to agree – but by then, some damage had been done! Listeners had received the same old story…Roscommon GAA in some turmoil!

  And, to support my point, my argument that the lads at least got the tone of their analysis wrong, here’s how Off The Ball/Newstalk were promoting their Monday night GAA segment on their website and Twitter:

  ‘NFL: Tyrone stifle Dubs, Grim up North and Trouble in Ros.’

  Surely ‘trouble in Ros’ is a bit over the top?

  Is it really fair, when reviewing Roscommon’s second game of this season’s NFL – in which they have acquitted themselves really well – to contextualise the whole discussion by reference to ‘trouble in Ros’?

  Of course the guys were referring to the ‘Niall Daly situation’ and the absence from the 2017 panel of a number of players, many of them key men, who featured in the past. (Daly took exception to being substituted against Tyrone recently). 

  It is true that Roscommon have lost a number of players, but is this not pretty much par for the course? Don’t counties shed players year on year? And wasn’t it inevitable, once the Fergal O’Donnell/Kevin McStay partnership was dissolved, that some changes in playing personnel would follow?

  On this occasion, I think Molloy and Moyles have dived in a bit quickly, a bit simplistically. Yes, Niall Daly obviously made his displeasure known to management last week, but that’s one situation, and besides, Kevin McStay has made it clear that the door remains open to Daly. Yes, other guys have left the panel, but some of these departures are down to retirements, the manager’s choice, other entirely normal or usual circumstances.

  Before Christmas, in an interview with Seamus Duke, published in the Roscommon People, Kevin McStay said “all the rumours and gossip and pub talk and tweets about a split among the players…was incredibly unfair on everyone involved.”

  Now don’t get me wrong: of course Roscommon supporters are deeply disappointed that so many fine experienced players are not currently involved – and I am under no illusions that there have been some tensions along the way – but I don’t think it’s accurate to start talking about a “mess” or “trouble in the camp.”

  Good guys left the panel, including some who retired. We should be able to note, indeed lament, the loss of key players…without lazily deeming it to be a crisis, an outbreak of trouble, a mess.

  I might add that the players who are currently in the Roscommon squad have done well in the first two rounds of Division One of the National Football League. These are the players who want to be there/who McStay currently wants. They deserve, and are getting, our backing.

  The Off the Ball guys won’t be found wanting when it comes to covering the Rossies this or any season. I just feel they got their nuances wrong on Monday night.

  I didn’t see any mess at the Hyde on Sunday. On the contrary, far from being a discontented camp, I thought the Roscommon players were great.

  Very much on the ball, in fact.