Belfast Telegraph

Time to show us some telly vision

By Declan Bogue

Almost 10,000 people at a club match. Staggering, isn't it? A total of 9,670 souls turned up at the Athletic Grounds, but bear in mind that Kilcoo is not much more than a crossroads with a small population.

Given the stormy history between these two clubs and the classic they had served up the previous week, added to the perfect setting of a crisp, beautiful winters' day, a bumper crowd was expected.

The Ulster club is quite simply the biggest spectator sport in this corner of the world. To put it into context, it took Linfield, the best-supported club in the Irish League, seven games to get a combined attendance of 13,655.

Another way of looking at it is that, over a combined total of 20 games, Ballinamallard United, Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town posted an aggregate attendance that still comes 1,126 short of a single game in the Ulster club.

You can stack all these figures beside each other, make a pye chart of them. Go wild and crazy and create a bar chart if you want.

They will make impressive viewing but even with that, the Ulster club struggles to get the mainstream television coverage it deserves.

TG4 has been responsible for the popularisation of club games. Because of their live and deferred coverage of entire games on a Sunday, followed up the excellent highlights show on a Monday night, Gaelic games fans in Kerry can become intimately familiar with the style of play of Crossmaglen Rangers. Likewise, a fan of St Gall's can get to see Colm Cooper not only when he plays for Kerry, but for Dr Crokes as well.

We are not intimately acquainted with the finer details of UTV's expansion into the south, but they will miss a trick if the extra money they garner from increased advertising revenue during the Emmerdale and Coronation Street commercial breaks is not at least considered for an English-speaking Gaelic games programme that could showcase the UIster club Championship.

On Sunday, TG4 screened live coverage from the Na Piarsaigh-Passage, and Corofin-Castlebar matches. It was a mistake not to make the Athletic Grounds their focus for the day.

They did however send a camera up to take footage for Monday night's highlights show.

This Sunday, TG4 are not scheduled to send any live team to cover Kilcoo-Ballinderry, preferring Kilcormac-Killoughey v Oulart-The-Ballagh and Middleton v Sixmilebridge. The camera they use to film their footage however, could be a shared feed with a potential English-speaking UTV programme.

Why should it be that games attracting such an interest live on only in the memory of those that were able to attend? Such thoughts, for now, belong in the future.

Another point we should raise is the lack of guidelines when it comes to clubs dealing with the media. It is noticeable that the most successful clubs such as Loughgiel Shamrocks and Crossmaglen are flexible, open and welcoming in their media dealings.

Others may be finding it a little bit harder to adjust.

After Sunday's game, reporters had the dizzying task of going down onto the field to gather quotes from players and management. It can sometimes be a fraught experience when you are asking competitors to try and put their feelings into words with emotions running high.

On Sunday, Kilcoo players made the decision that they would not speak to the media. When politely asked to reconsider, the club Chairman came to the door of the dressing room and repeated their position.

Now, you might balance their refusal to talk against what they could perceive as being burned over the media coverage surrounding last year's Ulster club final, which we don't need to go into here.

That ignores their stance last year before that, though. Having beaten St Gall's in a brilliant semi-final display, they decided they were not going to speak to the media.

Kilcoo are a tiny club who could be an example to other rural clubs. Their role in the 32-32-32 penalty shootout venture that raised money and awareness for the Simon Community came in for warm praise for all involved.

They provide a social hub for all in the community and are a real example to clubs that feel they have no chance of success. People want to hear these stories, to take lessons from them. The delight and joy they experienced in beating the greatest club of all should have been shared.

Hundreds of clubs would love to be in their position and it's not as if Kilcoo don't have players capable of talking to the media, such as the wise-cracking Conor Laverty.

The Ulster club Championship deserves to be a storied competition and have greater exposure. Hopefully Kilcoo will re-examine their position.

Belfast Telegraph

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