So there I was a few weeks ago during the replayed Mayo Kerry semi-final minding my own business when out of nowhere Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran combined to score Mayo’s second goal. It was a pivotal score, putting them 8 points ahead in the game and on their way to reaching the All-Ireland final for the second year in succession. It was certainly a big score for Ger Canning, who in the hullabaloo that followed, declared excitedly on RTE commentary that the Mayo players were “connecting like Lego”
It was then that it struck me: Ger Canning eh? Despite his prominence on commentating on the majority of big GAA games for the last 30 or so years, he’s always been a bit of an under the radar figure in RTE terms. He’s never been as loved as Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, or as loathed as the ear-piercing shriek of Brian Carthy on the radio. Even Marty Morrissey, who ostensibly commentates on fewer, high profile fixtures, is a much more notable figure.
Now granted, he’s not the worst. And we know how difficult it is to be completely coherent, while describing the action for 70 plus minutes of a drama filled GAA match. But even at that, there are certain moments when we’re left scratching our heads and asking the question “Why?” Why choose the convoluted expression during a game, when the simplistic one would do? Why mystify the action on screen when your objective is to clarify it? I thought that something must be said/written about it. So, without further ado, we present to you the 8 biggest Ger Canning commentary clichés.
1. “Does anyone deserve to lose this?”
It’s 5 minutes to go during an absorbing championship contest. Both teams have been going at it hammers and tongs for over an hour and there’s only a point or two between them. You’re shouting at the television roaring your side on to victory when it suddenly dawns on you “Crap, Ger Canning is on commentary…he’s going to say it…oh no” You know it’s coming and then all of a sudden, the immortal “Does anyone deserve to lose this?” phrase leaves his lips.
Ah man. If anyone has contributed as much to the GAA’s desire for replays over the last 30 years or so, it’s Ger. Every time a game is in the melting pot you can guarantee either this or the other old favourite “What odds a replay?” remark will get an airing. Sometimes you wonder if the referees’ ear piece is directly linked to RTE’s commentary and when hearing that statement automatically believes “Jesus, Ger Canning thinks nobody deserves to lose this game. I may as well blow it up so” If only that were the case.
It was during the 1992 All-Ireland final between Kilkenny and Cork that I first noticed this gem. As the Cat’s flame haired centre-forward burst through the Rebel’s defence to net Kilkenny’s second goal, Ger uttered the legendary lines. “John Power…foraging…and John Power scoring” Now I hadn’t heard the word “foraging” used before then, and to be fair, I’ve rarely heard it used by anyone else since, but listen to any Ger commentary on a big day and there’s always a fair chance that it will get an airing. I think it basically means bustling, or trying to break through the defence in a suitably unkempt manner. Then again, perhaps only the dictionary of Ger really has the definition.
3. “Shilly shallying,”
It’s the first half of a scrappy Munster championship first round game. The Waterford defence are slowly trying to work the ball out of the defence, as only they can, when Austin Gleeson emerges from the ruckus to drive the ball up the field. Well, in layman’s terms that would be the case, but in Ger’s world, that’s not enough. Ger has to describe it in more flowery ways like “Austin Gleeson says enough with this shilly shallying…” What, wait a second… Did he just say “Shilly Shallying?” Who in god’s name uses the words “shilly-shallying”? I’ve heard some people use the overly pompous “dilly-dallying” in the past but even that is dying out at this stage. But Ger persists with it. As to why, well again, only he must know.
4. “The getting to know you stage”
It’s the first few minutes of an All-Ireland semi-final or final. The two teams are trying to let each other know that they are not going to be bullied by the opposition when it’s time for one of the sides Ryan McMenamin/Francie Bellew-esque corner back to take matters into his own hands. So, as he engages in a bout of wrestling with the opposition’s star corner forward, it’s time for Ger to announce the old chestnut “Philly McMahon and Colm Cooper, still at the getting to know you stage”
Eh, I think they know each other pretty well by know Ger. If they hadn’t met on the field before, then I’m sure they’ve encountered each other at an All-Star Awards or trip, or perhaps even a Centra promotional event. What you’ve done there Ger is make an act of intense ferocity and intimidation, sound like a first awkward Tinder date. Maybe he feels that considering Michael O’Hehir coined the phrase “shemozzle” he has to come up with his own euphemism for any act of violence on a GAA field. He could do better than this one though.
5. “The would-be challenges”
He just loves a hypothetical statement does Ger. Whenever a hard-running midfielder or half forward has broken through some tackles Ger likes to use a suitably grandiose “He’s avoided the would be challenges” comment. Can you not just say the word “challenges”? I mean, that’s what they are. Admittedly they aren’t successful ones but “would be challenges”, makes it appear as if the defenders were about to ferociously confront an opposition player, before pausing philosophically to wonder what is the actual point of it all.
To younger readers, and not Old Timers like myself, latitude refers to a music festival that apparently takes place in England every summer. To people of my vintage, latitude and longitude refer to geographic co-ordinates that specifies the north-south position of a point on the earth’s surface (and thanks to Wikipedia for that definition)
But to Ger it means something entirely different. To Ger, whenever any player is given a sufficiently large area to run into he’s been given plenty of “latitude”. Now in one way you have to admire the audacity of a man who is not willing to take the easy option of saying “He’s got loads of space”. In another way, you can’t help but think… well, in some circumstances, it’s better to take the easy option. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
7. “The Amateur whistlers”
There’s just a minute left in the All-Ireland final. The referee is feverishly looking at his watch as Mayo, who are one point down, are trying to launch one last attack into Dublin’s territory. The mass Dublin crowd are exhorting the man in the middle to blow it up when Ger decides to introduce the beloved “the amateur whistlers” comment into the lexicon.
Now I guess it should be pointed out at this point, that paid or not, there are no fully professional referees in the GAA. So, it would make a bit more sense to state “The amateur whistlers are asking the semi-professional whistler to end the game” Just for argument’s sake we’d love to get a few professional whistlers into Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday to spice things up a bit, maybe confuse Ger and ward him off ever using this dreadful phrase again.
8. “Back Once again”
Usually used when a team launches a counter attack into the opponents defence Ger announces that Mayo/Tyrone/whoever are “Back once again”. He has never quite had the bravado to add the follow up with “…for the renegade master” but surely that’s just a matter of time.