Kingdom key: moving Declan O'Sullivan onto Denis Bastick was the switch of the year

The football analysts on The Sunday Game Live, or The Monday Game Live as they appeared on our television screens to dissect the Kerry and Dublin game, and offer RTÉ viewers a better understanding or a smidgeon of greater insight, should be asked to earn all the money they are being paid. Or, at the very least, work their cotton socks off for a change.

One of these aforementioned analysts, Colm O'Rourke, is a great friend of mine, but he now looks bored stiff sitting there for so long in front of Michael Lyster. Joe Brolly is someone I quite like and often find a good comedy man, but is in terminable decline as any sort of incisive or witty commentator. Pat Spillane, on the other hand, is still a walking, talking national disaster, and his continued participation on any serious forum of debate on any RTÉ programme should be questioned by all of us tax-payers on a regular basis.

RTÉ may think it's smart, and audience-pulling, having him as their resident GAA gobshite but they're being greedy. There's only room for one clown prince on RTÉ, and that's Eamon Dunphy. Spillane is not even up to playing the part correctly.

The reason the RTÉ analysts are getting top billing in this column this morning is two fold. One: I read on Wednesday morning that the fools who are being paid far too much money to run RTÉ, and who are paying O'Rourke, Brolly and Spillane far too much (Spillane and Brolly should at this stage be paying RTÉ, and Colm should be getting sandwich money only), are cutting funding for TV programming for the deaf by 60 per cent and that instead of producing 20 shows per year in the Hands On series, the station will have just one every two months.

The €100,000 RTÉ is saving by this awful decision is less cash, I'm safely betting, than Colm and his two amigos will pocket this summer between them.

Two: Spillane called last Monday's 17-point victory by Kerry over the dopiest, most lily-livered Dublin team I have ever watched play a game of football, the "greatest performance" he has ever seen in Croke Park. Colm and Brolly refused to open their mouths and commence any serious debate on such an idiotic statement.

When one team is so bad that their own manager offers his team to the nation as "startled earwigs", then we've all got to be careful what we think and say about the opposing side. Having had the benefit of a few days to consider it, I'm happy to say that Kerry were very good, on the day.

But, even to that very good, I would add a qualification or two. Kerry took on the world in Croker at 2.15 pm last Monday afternoon; Dublin just happened to be there and barely got in their way. There are some fantastically talented and big-hearted footballers inside the Kerry dressing room, and we've always known that. And, as this column advised over the last two weeks, someone was quite likely to get mashed by this Kerry team before the summer was out. I thought it might be Antrim; I never believed it would be Dublin.

But this was no more the greatest performance any of us have witnessed in Croke Park than Meath's ambushing of Kerry on their way to a 15-point victory at the beginning of this decade. Meath then got beaten by eight points by Galway in the All Ireland final in 2001 and I never again heard much talk about that remarkable Meath performance; perhaps the most wondrous in the county's history. We've all got to be careful in the aftermath of games which combine colossal amounts of adventure and misadventure, as Monday's quarter-final did, and therefore I am going to present the remainder of this morning's column in Q&A form. For my own sake, as much as yours.

Games such as last Monday's lead to gaffes and wild assumptions which can wield an axe capable of landing in any of our heads. So, I don't know about you, but I'm treading carefully.

» How afraid should Meath and Mayo be of Kerry in the semi-final?

On a scale of one to 10, Mayo should be a seven or eight. Meath should be a 10. Simple difference is that while this Meath team and its first-year management team have restored some pride to the jersey, the team's individual parts have not gelled into a body at work. Mayo has been hard work these past three years for John O'Mahony, but the time and gruelling effort of the number two football brain in the country (Mickey Harte being number one) has clearly been well spent, and there is an evident force and self-belief to Mayo.

In individual comparisons with this Kerry team, from one to 15, Mayo might lose 12 of them (Keith Higgins, Ronan McGarrity or David Heaney, and Alan Dillon might be considered of superior quality to their corresponding number), whereas I think Meath would lose all 15.

It will be no surprise, therefore, if I predict that Mayo will finally find some justice this afternoon for the savage inconvenience of losing the 1996 All Ireland title to Meath. That title should have been Mayo's, as in the drawn game and the infamous replay they showed themselves to be the superior football team.

Mayo lost that All Ireland because the team did not have the guts when the finishing post came into view, to throttle Meath in the individual physical battles. Mayo backed off.

Most Meath teams do not back off but we're not entirely sure whether this side is good, bad or indifferent. The jury is still out and therefore Mayo should not wait around and should make a decisive statement early in the game.

» After winning five Leinster titles in a row, how can Dublin, in the name of God, be an official basket case?

Dublin, almost one week after the most inglorious game of football in the team's history do resemble a wreckage. Earwigs all busted up. Some dead. Some of them barely breathing, and most of them privately wishing these last few days that they had chosen to become earwig golfers or earwig rugby players instead.

In truth, this particular Dublin team, if they had lived and played in the '80s and '90s, or if the GAA had not opened the back door in the last decade, would almost surely have won at least one precious All Ireland.

People forget, and certainly so many of the young bucks writing about Gaelic football nowadays have absolutely no memory of, how it once was for the team which won the Leinster title. In the '70s and '80s, if you won Leinster, then two out of every three years you played an Ulster or a Connacht opponent in the All Ireland semi-final, which was the equivalent of a bye to the final itself.

Maybe we are all suddenly forgetting how it once was: Connacht and Ulster teams did not defeat Leinster and Munster teams. Never.

Paul Caffrey's Dublin team was every bit as good, well prepared, and worthy as half a dozen football teams which have won All Irelands in the last 25 years. Caffrey was damned unlucky. Pat Gilroy, as it happens, was damned unlucky that he inherited a team which was indeed soft in the head and soft in the belly (as we've already agreed), and had come so damned close so often.

In choosing Gilroy as team manager, Dublin's rule-makers and office holders were bold and decisive. However, they chose someone with no managerial experience to take upon himself the most troubled football team and the most demanding managerial job in the country.

Think how long Harte worked and served as a team manager in Tyrone before he got the job. Want the answer? He managed club teams for 10 years and the Tyrone minors and under-21s for 12. By the time he got the big job, he held every imaginary certificate and invisible diploma the GAA has in its top drawer.

The Dublin football team is not a basket case, but Dublin as a GAA county and entity might well be. Gilroy did a good job up to last Sunday but he should never have been there this past 12 months.

He's got one year of a two-year contract left. He needs five years or else he needs to go and somebody else needs five or 10 years. At this stage, and I am not being at all smart, Dublin officials could put Anthony Daly in charge of the hurlers and the footballers and the county would be at no disadvantage. It might even be a calmer, more productive place in which to build a football team capable of winning an All Ireland sometime in the next 10 years.

That's what Dublin now need to consider: the next 10 years. They need to win an All Ireland title in the next 10 years. There should be no rush, or histrionics. It is what it is. A golden chance of winning an All Ireland passed in the last five years and there is not a football team in Dublin, as we look into the near future, manned and suitably talented to win one.

Me? I think Dublin should take a deep breath and then go about getting Seán Boylan, Joe Kernan or Pete McGrath, or one such smart and able individual from outside the place, to come in, reorganise and reinvigorate, and put in place a real sense of firm, long-term ambition.

»Is the season, as we had so hoped and wished, going to come down to a mammoth Jack O'Connor vs Mickey Harte showdown?

That's what we all want. It's what O'Connor wants, even though he will shrug off any such notion of personal redemption. O'Connor is a vain, vulnerable and insecure man; and aren't we all? The essential difference is that the rest of us have not been, and are not at this present moment, manager of the greatest football county in Ireland. The day O'Connor returned as Kerry team boss I congratulated him for his immense courage, and his raging ambition. Men like O'Connor are so difficult to find in Irish sport, and in the land of the GAA, that you and I would have to sift through riverbeds for winters and summers to find his like.

My wish was that 2009 would be all about O'Connor and Harte. The only thing that has changed in the intervening months has been Conor Counihan's magnificent Cork. He's getting in the way, slightly, of my own perfect September.

Counihan is, without question, the most liked and respected Cork GAA man I have ever met or heard mention of. He's a rock of common sense and it is no shock that he has built, in rapid time, a Cork team which is thrilling to watch, and full character and honest-to-goodness endeavour. We'd all love Counihan and Cork to win this All Ireland.

Aside from that, there is still O'Connor vs Harte which, for me, is looming like one of those boxing night of nights dreamt up by Don King and Frank Warren and our own loyal, persistent, big-punching impresario Brian Peters. There is so much emotion in O'Connor. Everyone who has liked him, doubted him, correctly ridiculed some of his team selections this year (I've got my hand up here) or incorrectly suggested that he would be fighting for his job before the summer is out (my hand is still raised, folks) would like the man to do it.

O'Connor is old fashioned guts and glory. Harte is coolness, simmering emotion, and natural genius at work. Of the two, there is always more room for error in O'Connor's head, and indeed his team selections this summer have regularly swayed between the awful and the misguided. But he got it so right when it mattered so much last Monday afternoon, and his single brilliant act of placing Declan O'Sullivan at full-forward against a bewildered and slightly scared Denis Bastick was the most ingenious move of the season to date. But somehow we believe it would have taken Mickey Harte all of 30 seconds to counter it, had he been in Gilroy's shoes.

»And, finally, since I'm a part-time Gaelic football analyst with TV3, do I have a vested interest in asking Michael Lyster to ask O'Rourke, Brolly and Spillane to earn every cent of the tax payers money they get?

RTÉ will claim that the viewing figures (The Monday Game Live had an average audience of 602,000 across the entire 70 minutes, ie three-fifths of those with their TVs on) tell a story of great success. Last Monday's audience, in my view, had feck all to do with Messrs Brolly, O'Rourke and Spillane. RTÉ could have put Messrs Cowen and Lenihan and Ms Coughlan in the studio and the numbers would probably have added up roughly to the same, or maybe far higher.

As for my own tiny role as an analyst on rival television station TV3? Well, TV3 pays its own way, every single day, as a commercial entity and therefore owes nobody any apology for me, David Brady or Peter Canavan, whether viewers think we are talking a load of cobblers and look like total clowns, or not.

RTÉ, on the other hand, owes you and I a full explanation every single day for what it does not do to the best of its ability or to our satisfaction. Don't forget, we own the damn thing.

Try harder lads.