Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Declan Bogue: Paidi show good ...but Donegal deserve better

Documentary gave limited insight into Donegal's success under Jim McGuinness

After the departure of Paídi Ó Sé from this world his genius and personality was fittingly remembered at his wake, his funeral, and by his graveside.

There were stories and yarns spoken about him fondly by everyone; a tapestry of myths and hop-ball that built up around the man.

He'd have loved to have been in the thick of it.

Shortly after, RTE took the decision to show the documentary ‘Marooned' again.

It was based throughout 2004, beginning in that strange week when Paídi was dismissed as Kerry manager and began with Westmeath.

Within that prism, we caught a glimpse of humanity in the rawest form.

Paídi cajoled, roared and cursed his team through their first ever successful Leinster campaign.

Yes, Paídi and Westmeath were the ultimate rebound relationship. He even admitted that from the outset of the programme and claimed that winning Leinster was nothing to compare to his triumphs in the green and gold of Kerry.

Unlike most relationships of that type though, both parties got something out of it and they parted on amicable terms.

Westmeath got rid of an inferiority complex. Paídi was able to show the world that he had a talent for leading teams, getting inside the heads of players and thinking on his feet — something that had been questioned in some quarters.

We bore witness to the intensity of optimism that abounds in a place like Westmeath, and lives on in Fermanagh and Wicklow who still await their first provincial title.

As one elderly Lakeland fan described it, quoting Alexander Pope: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

It was a marvellous piece of film-making, with plenty of coverage that took you into the soul of that journey.

The same cannot be said of the piece that aired last Thursday night on RTÉ, ‘Jimmy's Winning Matches', the story of how Donegal have transformed themselves from also-rans to All-Ireland champions in just two years.

What has happened in Donegal is astonishing, an example of what can be achieved when a group of players have the tools at their disposal, a belief system and a charismatic leader that a panel can unite behind.

But the format didn't work. There were too many utterly forgettable contributions within it.

Ultimately, and this happens when RTÉ are trying to ‘do' GAA, the overall control and idea of the programme was taken off those who conceived it, ending up as soft-focus powder-puff.

Digging for information on Donegal is notoriously difficult, but the programme makers were not going to do it by going straight to the team.

It ended up a very sober account of their All-Ireland win, with the rich personalities of these players not being brought to life.

Does it make for good television though? The answer is no. We did not gain a deeper understanding of the Donegal project, and most of the players did not appear comfortable on camera.

Instead, the content was kept to a collection of already tired anecdotes.

It also was unfair to two key men in the Donegal story. The glorious point that Kevin Cassidy kicked to finally seal the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final against Kildare was almost chuckled about, characterised as a ‘one-in-twenty' effort.

Cassidy is a player who puts in enormous practice so that when he finds himself in that situation, he can execute incredible skills.

The handling of Cassidy's subsequent dismissal was both glossed over and misrepresented manager Jim McGuinness.

Contributors admired the ‘steel' it took to make such a decision, neglecting to cover McGuinness inviting Cassidy back onto the panel, an invitation that, after some consideration, Cassidy declined.

Nevertheless, it showed that McGuinness wasn't as rigid in his thinking, nor as stubborn as was portrayed.

Whether you agree with his stance on certain issues, his flexibility was not brought to life here. The facts are that he had to be more adaptable in terms of his tactics in order to win an All-Ireland.

That would have been too nuanced though for what was a vehicle to hook in the average armchair fan.

RTÉ’s lack of faith in the project was demonstrated by how little plugging they gave it, in comparison to say, ‘When Ali Came To Ireland', screened on New Year's Day and relentlessly pushed beforehand.

Sport lends itself exceptionally well to the documentary format. Mostly, the sport is only a thread carrying an exceptional story of failure or victory, of regret or fulfilment.

However, obtaining interviews from those on the inside can have a knock-on effect on content.

Donegal may have re-invented football to a degree, but there is a lot more to their story than what we seen.

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