As Pat Spillane entered the third minute of a madcap rant about football structures and dancehalls in Donegal, you couldn’t help but feel this valuable time on The Sunday Game would be better off spent elsewhere.
Indeed, it wasn’t until 11pm when the highlights for the weekend’s two main events – the Munster championship openers – began on the show, at which time snoozeland was calling for a lot of people who had missed the game live, or wanted to review where things went wrong (or right).
Those two or three minutes could’ve been spent acknowledging the existence of the Joe McDonagh Cup, which seems to have slipped through the cracks at RTÉ headquarters.
A major review of the sport’s television coverage needs to be done by the GAA and media outlets, because too many people are missing out on too much action. There’s too much GAA for two hours of a Sunday night to make a dent. In the era of the modern game, where there’s cameras at every game and we have the technology to make it all work seamlessly, there’s no excuse for fans not to see their county in action, at the very least in a five minute highlights package.
Firstly, on the evidence of the weekend just past, scheduling all the games for Sunday was monumentally stupid. Anyone at the Limerick and Tipperary game would have missed all or part of the Cork and Clare match. The televising of these games meant Wexford v Dublin and Kilkenny v Galway weren’t on at all, and there was nowhere to watch Monaghan and Tyrone in the football.
Splitting the games over Saturday and Sunday is the first, simple step to take in enhancing the viewing experience.
In regards to the football, the GAA needs to bite the bullet and afford BBC Northern Ireland the chance to show all or a selection of Ulster football games. It doesn’t make sense for Ulster to miss out on more or less their entire championship because RTÉ would rather show Munster hurling. Give BBC NI the Ulster games, and let them package the highlights for games they can’t show live for a night during the week, after The Sunday Game airs so they aren’t clashing.
For lower tiered championships, they need to be given respect of a highlights show of their own. If RTÉ won’t acknowledge the existence of the Christy Ring, the Joe McDonagh, the Nicky Rackard or the Lory Meagher then find someone who will.
I’m sure TG4 would love to upstage The Sunday Game with a show during the week where they can shed light on the lower tiers, getting on different guests from around these counties to highlight the great work that’s being done and get GAA fans familiar with these competitions. Package these cups separately. TG4 would do immense work for this level – give them some live games and schedule them at a time where the mainstream games aren’t impacted.
As for The Sunday Game, this show is becoming a megaphone for agendas and crack-pot debates on the structure and problems of the GAA. This should be a highlights show, with immediate analysis of the games. I understand the likes of Pat Spillane have nowhere else to vent their displeasure, so give them a show during the week where all the latest issues and controversies can be ironed out.
Let it be a Match of the Day 2 or a Goals on Sunday style of programme, something a little less formal where a panel of analysts have time to debate whatever the latest controversy in the GAA is, taking a look at the talking points from the weekend’s games to try and put a full stop on the action for that week.
You’re never going to be able to show everything on The Sunday Game – a supplementary show is what’s needed for the major debates and to give time over the latest controversies. There was no mention of the Offaly football situation on Sunday night, and there shouldn’t be – a secondary show will be a better fit for this kind of debate.
When the new Super 8 structures were introduced, in addition to the increased volume of Leinster and Munster hurling, nobody in GAA Headquarters seemed to ask how are we going to be able to show all of these extra games. The television rights structure in place was now obsolete, as Sky and RTÉ had to become more selective over the games they could show, to the detriment of provincial football.
Only seven of 29 provincial football games will be aired live. Dublin’s opener against Wicklow will not be televised, the first time since 2006 the Dubs will play a championship game without a live television audience.
Something should have been put in place to account for the increase in games. Let TV3 or eir or TG4 into the bed, even if they were only showing deferred or condensed coverage. Let RTÉ show some of the extra games online. Let Sky show some of the games behind the red button. It’s completely absurd to introduce a dozen or two more games and not let the media outlets adjust for this in their programming, meaning the GAA audience at home miss out on so much action.
The television coverage of the GAA is in the doldrums. As much as Sky have advanced things with their fancy gadgets, they haven’t figured out a way to deliver more coverage of games like they do with other sports. Meanwhile as our state broadcaster, RTÉ need to do more to bring games from around the country to the GAA community.
Eir did immense work during the league, and have done fine work bringing more club action to our screens beyond the realm of TG4. For all the major strides made during the earlier months of the year, it makes zero sense to completely vacate Eir of any action over the summer. Not even a highlights package, not even some deferred coverage.
But above all, the GAA need to do more to ensure as many boxes as possible are ticked and coverage is more widespread. If that means getting eir or TV3 in on the action, so be it. If that means getting TG4 involved somehow, great. They have to realise that there is too much hurling and football being left on the side of the road, meaning hordes of fans are not seeing their team on a weekly basis.
Leave your dancehalls in Donegal for Daniel O’Donnell’s latest act, we don’t have enough time in the programme to show you what matters.