What’s becoming a hotly raged debate, up there with multi-tiered championships and hurling versus football, is the quality and quantity of GAA coverage on television from one weekend to the next. With the recent revamping of the hurling provincial championships which has resulted in more fixtures, as well as the advent of the Super 8s in football and the growth of the Joe McDonagh Cup and lower tiered championships, there is a huge amount of GAA action going on and not nearly enough of it given the justice it deserves on the airwaves. Despite the huge increase of action on the fields, viewers and GAA lovers are still restricted to the age-old Sunday Game format, which affords a huge amount of time to the mainstream games, and rightly so, but often games that RTÉ had shown earlier in the day, and lends no time whatsoever to the less mainstream.
So how can we change that? Thankfully, there’s three operators currently on hand to provide GAA coverage, in RTÉ, Sky and TG4, with Virgin no doubt keen to get involved in the action next time the rights availability open up, so there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Not restricting GAA action to Sundays and Saturday nights, and for the moment discarding the notion of quotas between each operator and hurling versus football, here are some suggestions that could greatly enhance the viewers experience when it comes to GAA on our television screens.
Weekend Morning Show
In the interest of getting kids and younger audiences more involved, there’s definitely a space in the week for a light-hearted Soccer AM-style programme, perhaps on a Sunday morning before the big games throw-in. If RTÉ aren’t willing to give up their Home and Away re-runs slots, this type of show could also survive online on GAA.ie, Facebook or YouTube. Perhaps shot live at different clubs around the country, getting the local teams and communities involved, with interviews with big name players around the country, highlight reels of the past week’s action, quizzes, games, challenges and a panel of guests to create a lively morning show which would appeal to younger audiences and help get them in tune with the action and latest goings-on in GAA circles.
You could definitely see the 2 Johnnies hosting, with their major following amongst young fans drawing a huge audience each week. Given the recent rise of the likes of the aforementioned 2 Johnnies and Buff Egan, there’s clearly a huge desire amongst young GAA fans for fun and interactive content, and it’s surprising more effort hasn’t been made to make this happen.
Saturday Morning Game
Anyone who follows the Premier League will be aware of the appeal of a Saturday morning kick-off to get the weekend underway. A Saturday morning 1pm throw-in would give fans plenty of time to travel to the games, and allotting it solely for football championship games or, if there’s no football on, a Joe McDonagh or Leinster hurling tie could work. We’d give TG4 this slot, who would no doubt do it justice.
Saturday Night Game
Sticking one of the Munster or Leinster hurling games, or indeed one of the more high profile football championship games, on a Saturday night would be ideal viewing, just as it is now. If there was a heavy slate of games, a back-to-back double header would go down a treat, with 5pm and 7pm throw-ins. We’d allot this to Sky Sports, or to Virgin Media if they ever took on some coverage.
The Sunday Game
The bread and butter. We wouldn’t go anywhere near the tried and tested Sunday afternoon games on RTÉ.
The Sunday Game Highlights
As much as people give out about the archaic format, there’s so much nostalgia and routine with the Sunday Game after a weekend’s action that it’s nearly impossible to mess with. There’s nothing better than coming home from a game of a Sunday afternoon and settling into the Sunday Game at 9.30pm for a bit of analysis, reaction and bit of controversy from the likes of Joe Brolly and Donal Óg Cusack. Although we would tweak it to a 9pm start, since it goes on far too late, and ensure all results are at the very least mentioned at the end of the show, from all tiers of hurling.
The Football Show
Exactly what it says on the tin. Either on TG4 or Sky Sports, a football-centric review show either on a Monday or Tuesday night going through all the highlight packages from every game that weekend, with intelligent and informal analysis from the panel. On lighter weeks, time could be afforded to the so-called weaker counties with interviews and feature clips on players, managers and stories from around the country to give light to some feel-good topics. Just like the GAA Hour podcast with Colm Parkinson, he affords ample time for each code in two separate podcasts, why can’t we do that with highlight programmes?
The Hurling Show
For so long we’ve tried to cram everything into a couple of hours of a Sunday evening. Let’s split things out, give each show plenty of time to breath and flex its muscles, and that’s what we’re doing with a Hurling Show on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. With all the action from the past weekend, with plenty of time afforded to each tier and interviews and features on players and stories around the country, this would be the one-stop-shop hurling show for everyone’s needs. As per above, it’d be light and informal in mood but with intelligent debate that doesn’t get bogged down in tired old conversations and controversies.
We’d make all games immediately available online, be it on YouTube or GAA.ie, either in full or at the very least in a condensed 10 minute package. Other sports do it, such as the NFL and NBA, the nights after games, and so should the GAA – especially if the games weren’t on TV in any capacity. If there were TV cameras at the game it should be made available to fans from that county. In some instances, lower tiered games should be shown live online, including all Joe McDonagh games and the knockout stages of the Christy Ring and Nicky Rickard Cups, while the earlier stages of the provincial championships should be either live online or made available in full in a deferred format. For games on Sky Sports, these could be deferred for 48 hours before they become freely available.
You’re giving the county’s fans a chance to see their teams in action if they weren’t on TV or if they wanted to relive the action, and also allowing the die-hards to get more familiar with teams and players since we go seasons without seeing most teams and players featured live on television at all. Shane Conway, to take one example, is lighting things up for Kerry in the Joe McDonagh, and making their games available would allow him to be seen and have his best clips cut and shared on social media. On that point, all clips made available online should be allowed to be shared by everyone across all social media platforms, taking a leaf from the NBA playbook. Content = GOOD!
Of course, a “GAA TV” style operation could take all of the above into account, but even with a subscription package you’d wonder if it is truly feasible. Sky Sports is currently the only paywall, aside from Eir Sport’s league packages, but regardless of paywalls, every game should be made freely available after the full time whistle blows.
These are just some ideas to try and get as much GAA action to as many eyes as possible. At the very least, a county’s supporters are getting to see their county online in a deferred manner, but if as many supporters as possible can be afforded the opportunity to see their county live online or on TV then the sport will be in a much better place. Feel free to comment below with some of your own suggestions!
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @gaawrap.