Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir on the box: Croke is it for RTE and Sky

By Billy Weir

It really was a clash to whet the appetite – the fancy new upstarts with their highfalutin ways and state of the art systems against the perennial visitors to Croke Park who have been turning up in Dublin since Michael D Higgins was in short trousers.

Yes, Donegal were taking on Kerry but I'm talking about the real battle here, as Sky broke their All-Ireland Football Final virginity by going up against RTE, who were keen to show the whipper-snappers a thing or two.

So who were the Kings of the kingdom and who were sent homewards to the mountains to think again? Read on.

Opening titles: The tried and trusted for RTE, you know where you are when that music starts and it's like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers, while on Sky it's more dancing shoes as a track pilfered from Riverdance accompanied by what looks like an ad for Bord Failte. RTE 0-1 Sky 0-0.

Opening salvos: On Sky, Rachel Wyse came bounding out of the tunnel to meet Sam Maguire but he wasn't there, although he had left a big cup as she pondered who would take it home – the aristocrats or the men from the hills of Donegal and cue the diddly-dee music and sepia-tinged clips of finals gone by.

Meanwhile much earlier, at the start of the whopping five hours and 34 minutes of coverage that had Sky+ boxes across the land whimpering, Michael Lyster appeared and began: "Hello, and welcome to Headquarters on this the biggest day in the gaelic football calendar.

"There's certainly a lot to get through in the next couple of hours before throw-in, so let's get cracking then," he continued and filling time was the order of the day as Kerry's path to the final took 22 minutes, not so much a path as a meandering gravelled walkway lined with ornate porticos and gardens knocked up by Capability Brown.

Donegal's path took just 16 minutes, but then again the soil isn't great in that part of the world. RTE 0-1 Sky 0-1

Presenters: A battle of the sexes as Lyster was up against Wyse, who also welcomed us to 'the biggest day in the gaelic football calendar'. I have never seen this calendar but I'm guessing it only goes up to the third Sunday in September.

She was sent to track down Donegal manager and psychologist Jim McGuinness at his luxury hotel earlier in the week.

"Let's look at a pie chart," she began. "In terms of psychology, how much do you think it makes up that part of a pie chart in terms of the team and what are the other segments?"

A perplexed McGuinness replied: "It really depends on the context. I've said many times before if you're 24 stone you're not going to win the 100m sprint at the Olympics." In fairness, if you're 24 stone, you're probably top of the pie charts.

And talking of filling. "Welcome to the All-Ireland Final, the most important day in the gaelic football calendar," said Lyster and no I haven't gone mad, he said this again, this time from the studio, after we had had a not very brief detour to Montrose.

This, it turns out, is RTE's HQ and we weren't off to Scotland, but to fill time Daire O'Brien was joined by, among others, a journalist and an historian who started waffling on about Kerry dynasties but I was sensing more padding than in Krystle Carrington's shoulders. RTE 0-2 Sky 0-1

Glamorous assistants: Brian Carney and his big TV are the Debbie McGee to the lovely Rachel's Paul Daniels and he's very shiny and happy to be there but poor Michael has to do things on his own armed only with a calendar. RTE 0-2 Sky 0-2.

Pundits: The usual suspects on RTE, Colm O'Rourke and Joe Brolly sandwiching the very meaty Ciaran Whelan, while on Sky there was another big Dub, I said 'Dub', with Senan Connell joined by Peter Canavan, who could see the iceberg ahead.

"I would be concerned it is going to be a war of attrition," he said, I think meaning the match but maybe the length of RTE's coverage, and he must have been gutted to see that Michael D had turned up in the same blue tweed number he was wearing, although probably from the kids' section.

After the game, Kerry goalscorer Kieran Donaghy had cordial greetings for Brolly.

"Joe Brolly told us the production line was finished in Derry – well Joe Brolly, what do you think of thaaaaaatttttt?" as he ran away screaming.

"You'd know that man had Tyrone blood in him, they're all the same," said Brolly before smoothing things over by concluding: "That's the worst All-Ireland Final I've ever seen." RTE 0-3 Sky 0-2

Commentators: Ger Canning was doing it for RTE, someone else was for Sky. RTE 0-4 Sky 0-2

Little helpers: A mixed bag with Sky having Orla Chennaoui for a bit of exotic glamour, Draperstown's finest the nearest Derry has got to the Final in some time, while Damian Lawlor was Father Dougal to her Mrs Doyle.

"I've heard two words in Kerry all week," he told Kerry's Michael Quirke, son of Pauline. "Patience and maybe attacking down the flanks to try and exploit the blanket defence," he said, in 14 words.

As for RTE, Podge and Rodge's unspoken of sibling, Marty Morrissey, was out and about pouncing on unsuspecting fans while the excellent Joanne Cantwell broke more than big stories with a revelation from Tomas O Se that a colleague spent half-time in All-Ireland Finals breaking wind. RTE 0-5 Sky 0-2

So there you have it, a three points victory for the old guard against the new kids on the block.

Here's to next year and Sky coming back even bigger and better on the biggest day in the gaelic football calendar – apparently.

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: As you probably know, I’m not a fan of things hidden behind the red button so news that BT Sport has taken the plunge for their clashing football coverage worried me slightly. However the first option was a choice between Evian and Bordeaux, so not only do they serve up sport, they have a drinks menu as well. I’ll go for the red.

THE BAD: A ball hasn’t been thwacked in anger at Gleneagles and I’m already getting fed up with the Ryder Cup. It’s incessant on Sky, who have even renamed one of their sports channels, Sky Sports Ryder Cup (catchy). The only surprise is that they haven’t wheeled in Steve Rider to front it.

THE UGLY: Not long now until Judy Murray takes to the floor on Strictly Come Dancing, which gets under way on Friday night, but after wee Andy’s ill-timed cry for Scottish independence on Twitter in the lead up to the referendum last week, I can’t see it ending well. I’d imagine the word ‘no’ will be very much to the fore when it comes to Hyacinth from the Home Counties voting for her.

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