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Friday 17 August 2018

I watch RTE for intelligent rugby analysis, not Hook's second-rate pantomime

WELCOME to RTE Sport's TV Burp, the latest overseas import given an Irish twist.

In this version, RTE takes a bald funnyman (or not) and gets him to spew and snort into the camera for minutes on end.

The bald guy makes funny faces, raises an eyebrow in a most amusing fashion, and for a finale folds his arms and looks very annoyed with himself.

Oh the absolute hilarity of it all, old-fashioned, slap-stick comedy and the great general public lap it up like it were Podge and Rodge presenting Winning Streak.

Except in this case the bald man is not Harry Hill, it's George Hook, and the show is not produced by the RTE comedy department, it is produced by RTE Sport.

But that joke isn't funny any more.



Whine

Even the guffawing general public who usually lap up RTE Sports version of Come Whine With Me have had enough, after the station fluffed its lines during Ireland's epic win over Australia at the weekend.

The cock-up came at half-time on Saturday just as the Irish rugby team for their first time in their history were beating one of the hot favourites at a Rugby World Cup and became a genuine contender. It seems the station handed out the wrong scripts, but nobody told Hookie until it was too late.

Off he waddled like a Hillbilly at a hog wrestle, as the yokels whooped and hollered while the fat man rolled around in the mud thrashing and howling for all his worth.

Almost delirious with rage, Hookie belched and berated us that this was "a terrible match, a bad rugby match".

But for the first time the bumpkins had had enough, and wandered away to see what other sideshows were going on in the field.

You didn't have to be Neil Francis to know that this was not a bad rugby match -- in fact this was Union at its most brilliant.

Respected rugby commentators agreed that this was a classic match from beginning to end, with Stephen Jones and Stuart Barnes leading the way.

Jones described the game as "this fantastic match and this fantastic occasion", while Barnes, a man accused of being anti-Irish in a purely rugby sense in the past, hailed Ireland as potential competition winners following their performance against the Aussies.

What RTE's expert didn't seem to realise is that the battle of the scrum is as fascinating a sports subject as Tiger Woods' golf swing, or Lionel Messi's turn of foot, and we were winning it against one of the greatest teams in the world.

When Stephen Ferris picked up and carried Will Genia back to Sydney midway through the first half we knew this was a special Irish performance, entertainment of the highest value.

The sports-loving Irish public knew this immediately.

But still RTE decided it wanted its cartoon analysis, a la Dunphy, Spillane and most tragically -- Hook.

As Hook hollered at the camera and told us that black was white, I began to feel sorry for his fellow commentators forced to participate in this grotesque sideshow.

Frankie Sheehan is a good reader of the game and knew the joke had gone too far as Hook lashed out like a blind man in a bar.

But sadly he and Brent Pope have to play the game that RTE wants, and that's to shake their heads and cover their ears every time the Old Man hobbles forward, spitting his fury.

Brian O'Driscoll (below) is right when he says that those who matter pay no attention to Hook.

Unfortunately, Hook's paymasters still want pantomime instead of intelligent analysis. That's why Hook will continue to get it wrong about Ireland, Leinster and Munster.

That's why he'll get away with outrageous personal remarks about key players.

I tune into RTE for Hugh Cahill, Donal Lenihan, Brent Pope and Conor O'Shea. Not for second-rate Vaudeville.

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