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Coffey on the Couch – The Western People

It’s not easy bein’ green, certainly not if you’re a Mayo supporter. Bottlers, chokers, bridesmaids, soft-centred, naive and nice are just some of the terms used to describe Mayo football teams by our national media in the last few years. Oh and another one…different, yes ‘different’ has replaced steel as the media’s favourite buzzword to describe James Horan’s team in the four weeks since the Down game. Numerous articles reliably informed us that there was something ‘different’ about this Mayo team under Horan.

But on Sunday in RTE’s Croke Park Studio, Joe Brolly – that great supporter of Mayo football – wasn’t so sure, ‘Even now the big issue is whether you can believe Mayo when they profess this new found confidence and say look, those days of collapses are behind us.’ It must have been a shock for Joe to find out that this game was taking place at all, since all he talked about during the August Bank Holiday was how Dublin would fare against Donegal in the final. A point which Mayo footballer Alan Dillon alluded to in the post match interview on Sunday when he said the team ‘didn’t get the credit they deserved’ after beating Down.

Still, these insignificant details along with the fact that Mayo, a team Brolly rated as the seventh best in Ireland were contesting a semi-final, didn’t stop Joe sticking the boot in on poor old Pat Spillane, ‘I’ve provided better information than you Pat on the basis of this season so far’ before going to argue with Spillane over Alan Dillon’s ability as a footballer ‘He’s not a great footballer, I haven’t seen him do it on the big day’. Cue Dillion winning RTE’s Man of the Match Award.

Of course it’s easy to take pot shots at the likes of Brolly and co when they come across as nothing but glorified ‘Mystic Megs’ in many ways. But with the game continually evolving and higher standards being demanded in all areas, perhaps we should ask more from those who have the loudest voice…our GAA pundits.

The primary job of an analyst is to inform us, to point out things we may have missed.  Similarly, when giving their predictions on games it should come after assessing the various strengths and weaknesses of teams. In the papers on Saturday there were experts tipping Dublin on the basis that the level of opposition they had faced so far had been tougher than what Mayo played. That isn’t analysis, it’s pub talk. At the moment, RTE’s analysis is more about Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly trying to score points off each other rather than actual insight.

Anyway, that’s my mini-rant over. Back to the game, and with the Alan Brogan cliff-hanger dominating pre-match discussion in the studio, Michael Lyster was drumming up the tension. Would he start? Would he even be fit? Did it actually matter?

The answer to that was a universal, ‘No’ from the RTE experts. Colm O’Rourke, Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane joined Kevin McStay, Ciaran Whelan and Tony Davis from the previous week in backing Dublin to win. Then again, five of those had gone for a Cork win the previous week.

It’s a handy job being a pundit really. You can criticise everyone and anyone you want and still get your own analysis completely wrong time and again without answering to anybody, well anyone but Michael Lyster at half-time, ‘Gentlemen, one of the great privileges you guys have, is that you can completely change your mind as the day is going along, why aren’t Dublin winning like you all told me at the start?’

‘Well one of the great privileges is just to be here on an occasion like this’ replied a shifty Colm O’Rourke with the other two smiling on nervously. ‘It’s great’ remarked Brolly, ‘because you know, Mayo are sorta the most lovable screw-ups in Gaelic Football…look I think they’ve got an arse in their trousers now’ Things were looking good, even Joe had jumped on the ‘Mayo are a different team under Horan’ bandwagon.

Still, he was shocked by the inertia in the Dublin attack, ‘Bernard Brogan looks like he’s been afflicted by a witchdoctor’. Out on the pitch, the dream performance continued for the first 15 minutes of the second half and I think you know, if James Horan has to pin-point the place where it all went wrong he can look no further than RTE commentator Darragh Maloney who chose the 50th minute – just as Alan Dillon put Mayo ten points ahead – to inflict the dreaded commentators curse,’ It’s Mayo’s day, it’s got to be’.

Oh god, the team might be different but you just can’t say things like that to a Mayo supporter, not after 1996. 15 minutes later and it looked like the collapse of 1996 was about to be eclipsed. But then, as suddenly as they disappeared, Mayo clicked back into gear again, the reintroduction of Kevin McLoughlin and the appearance of Seamas O’Shea having the desired impact.

‘Very few saw this coming, myself included’ remarked Kevin McStay at the final whistle. Pat Spillane summed it up best, ‘That was a fantastic game, fantastic occasion, brilliant entertainment, brilliant intensity, skill levels, fitness levels, if you could bottle that lads we could export it all over the world. It was just magnificent to be here today.’

‘Fair play to them they proved us all wrong’ added Colm O’Rourke.

On Radio One, Ray Silke said we had just seen two of ‘the best semi-finals in living memory.’

Mayo are back in the big time and it’s certainly a nice place to be.

The economics of early sticker trading set kids up for life – Newstalk.ie

Thursday 31st January sees the close of the January transfer window in Britain where last minute panic buys and unfounded rumours will dominate the day. But in the 1990s, January was traditionally the month where a very different form of player trading was in full swing. Sticker collecting dominated schoolyards in Britain and Ireland where the most sought after players weren’t necessarily the most talented…

Furbies, tamagotchis, pogs and yo-yos, most Irish children who attended primary school in the 1990s dabbled in one if not all of these fads but it was Merlin’s Premier League stickers that ruled the roost. For weeks post Christmas, schoolyards across the country turned into miniature trading areas.

Huge popularity
Got, got, need, got, need were generally the only mutterings heard at this time among the huddles of children that congregated at lunchtime for daily bartering sessions. Market research carried out in the 90s suggested that around 80% of males aged between 7 and 11 owned a Merlin Premier League sticker album, and looking back, in many ways it was a pretty good introduction to the world of economics.

Of course Merlin didn’t print each sticker the same number of times, they couldn’t have, I mean how else could you explain ending up with six Colin Hendrys? But they did set up special trading centres where you could go along with your swaps and exchange them for whatever stickers you still needed.
Unfortunately this only applied if you lived in the UK as the centres didn’t come to Ireland, meaning we had to make do with photos of happy kids completing their album with ease while we opened packet after packet searching for that elusive Ray Parlour mug shot. Little in your childhood could compare to the crushing disappointment of spending your pocket money on a couple of packets of stickers (at 30p a pop you know) only to find you had them all already. And if spending all your pocket money on ‘worthless stickers’ (as adults used to often inform us) wasn’t enough, you could also send off for a colourful ring binder to preserve your pristine album if you happened to be a millionaire and had enough money to finish the book.

The economics of football stickers
Yes, although we didn’t know it, we were learning all about supply and demand. Of course some kids always had way more stickers than others, where one child would have enough money to get two packets a time, others would waltz into the shop and purchase 10. They were the oil barons of the playground and when it came to swapping, they controlled the market.
The most sought after stickers differed every year, but usually the shiny club crest stickers were the most popular, indeed I remember only too well the pain of parting with all my swaps just to attain the crest of my beloved Arsenal. Only one kid had the logo spare and he knew I really wanted it, so the price went up. Primary school kids had first-hand experience of the elasticity of demand long before the Junior Cert cycle.

It wasn’t just Merlin who were in on the act though, Panini were the main players for big international tournaments and for those who grew up in the 80s they were the original sticker company. Summer holidays and the limited availability of stickers meant that Panini World Cup albums never really had the same impact as the Premier League ones although they now enjoy a greater cult status on the internet if only for containing mug shots from the likes of ‘Perm-King’ Carlos Valderrama of Columbia.
Of course today you can go online and purchase a competed album from any season you want off eBay, they’re not exactly collector’s items either with average album selling for about 25 euro. I don’t even think they make the sticker albums anymore, card collecting has taken over instead. But I guess it wouldn’t be a fad if it lasted forever.

Euro 2012: So who’s winning the battle of the TV stations? 

RTÉ
IF IT AIN’T broke, don’t fix it, has been RTÉ’s approach to this year’s European Championship.
John Giles, Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy are like the proverbial, well-oiled machine and with Bill O’Herlihy playing the role of stage master, the analysis has been entertaining if unoriginal.
Bill, not to be left behind by technology has embraced social media for this tournament, in fact you can follow the ramblings of the wily old Corkman here.
Brady, Dunphy and Giles haven’t been taken in by this Twitter rubbish: ‘Will Ireland beat Croatia?’ asked Bill, in the first of many Irish polls that, like Trapattoni got it completely wrong on the day. Some 86% of us — blinded perhaps by the euphoria engulfing the country — said yes. The panel burst out laughing.
But, like Croatia, at least you can rely on the lads to give us a reality check when we need it most.
Star Pundit – Liam Brady: Although the Arsenal man got it wrong on Croatia (he had tipped them to win it), overall he’s given the most informed opinion in the studio. His time spent working with Ireland and Trapattoni during the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign leaves him in a better position than most to comment on the motives behind Trapattoni’s decisions.

BBC
If there’s one thing we can thank BBC and ITV for, it’s the introduction of the celebrity pundit. Without them we’d never have been introduced to Dietmar Hamann and his strange eyebrows, nor would Ossie ‘Tott-ing-ham’ Ardiles have graced us with his presence.
Still, who could forget Gazza on ITV in 2002, or that same tournament when Ian Wright turned up on BBC dressed as the Karate Kid? But for every risk there’s reward and for BBC this summer it has come in the form of Clarence Seedorf.
After his classy, informed stint back in 2010, the Dutchman has been recalled to Salford. Yes, that wasn’t a typo, Gary Lineker and co. have been forced to swap the sun, golf and light shirts these tournaments usually afford them, for gloomy Manchester. For the first time since 2002 BBC haven’t relocated their entire studio to the host nation.
On Twitter, Lineker put up some lame excuse about BBC being unable to find a suitable location for their headquarters. Something tells me a lack of money and the looming 2012 Olympics had something to do with it.
ITV have no such worries…
Star Pundit – Clarence Seedorf: The Dutchman has been a breath of fresh air. The likes of Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage add little to proceedings besides grinning like maniacs so the insightful comments by the midfielder have been very well received. Sign him up for Match of the Day, please.

ITV
Yes, ITV — or UTV for you and me — are out in Poland and boy do they like to let you know. Besides mentioning it every five minutes, we’ve had match analysis in a Polish restaurant complete with puzzled diners. All that was missing was James Richardson of Football Italia fame, in the background scoffing some expensive looking dessert.
The big attraction on UTV, for us at least, has been Roy Keane and the Corkman hasn’t disappointed.
Fighting with pretty much everyone on the Irish team at this stage, who knows where the knock-out stages will lead him. Gareth Southgate has been, well Gareth Southgate but Patrick Vieira has been a big disappointment. Not quite Jamie Redknapp-bland but not far off. Can Adrian Chiles not do something to get Keane and Vieira fighting? Give the people what they want.
Star Pundit – Roy Keane: I know, I know. Roy Keane above all people. But, come on I can’t pick Gareth Southgate . Keane is ok, he’s drummed up a lot of publicity with his criticism of the Irish setup but has offered little else in the other games. The best of a bad lot.

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