Pat-SpillaneHaving Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane in the same studio makes for uncomfortable viewing. It’s a bit like sticking Enda Kenny and John Deasy in a room and waiting for it all to kick off. After a while everybody starts to squirm. It’s entertainment not enmity we’re looking for, surely.

“He’s a referee who likes to be the centre of attention,” said Brolly with a comical lack of self-awareness after slating Joe McQuillan’s (mis)handling of Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final upset between a dynamic, free-scoring Down and a jaded one-dimensional Kerry.

“I’ve talked about traffic wardens being sent in instead of referees and he is the classic traffic warden. I mean, the man is a complete menace,” claimed the Derry barrister. If the same was said about a player Michael Lyster would be falling over himself to defend their integrity. But it seems to be open season on referees (bar Pat McEnaney). Every season.

Kerry boss Jack O’Connor could be heard on TV3 News on the eve of the match saying ‘nobody likes us but we don’t care’, basically using the media (tellingly on RTÉ’s rival station) to blame the media for having his lads singled out for rough justice.

Protesting too much that doesn’t give a damn what people think, he clearly can’t recognise that tolerating/condoning/excusing the sort of carry-on that Kerry players have been engaging in under his watch has helped cause their downfall. Yet there he was afterwards talking out both sides of his mouth. “How an Ulster referee is left to ref an Ulster team is beyond my comprehension. I’m not criticising Joe McQuillan, I’m just saying that shouldn’t be happening.” A lot of stuff shouldn’t be happening. And it’s not all right Jack.

In that languid, supersmug way of his, Brolly waxed lyrical about James McCartan’s men who’d “played like aristocrats” — a definite rub at the Kingdom native in his midst — and took obvious pleasure in noting how the holders had been “genuinely thrashed.”

Spillane hadn’t much room for manoeuvre, though he began with by fingering the CCCC for suspending Tomás Ó Sé and Paul Galvin, “the two best footballers in the championship last year… who the referees didn’t have a problem with”; then the ‘goal’ that was disallowed, and Donnacha Walsh’s deserved sending-off. But that would be just clutching at straws, he said, with what looked like a round bale under his seat.

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