Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Sky Sports could serve up tasty dish for GAA community

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 25/8/2013
Mayo vs Tyrone
RTE's Joe Brolly, Pat Spillane, Colm O'Rourke and Michael Lester watch the game
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 25/8/2013 Mayo vs Tyrone RTE's Joe Brolly, Pat Spillane, Colm O'Rourke and Michael Lester watch the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

There's this column, you might have read it. In fact, of course you've read it. Practically everyone writing a column on GAA matters reverts back to it when the sun is high in the sky and the fresh-cut grass of Championship meets the nostrils. It's a bit of a lazy shortcut, but hey, what's not to like about a lazy shortcut?

I myself have succumbed to it. Oh yes. It's the column that asks the question, and such is the notoriety of the trio that first names shall suffice; 'Should Joe/Pat/Colm have said that?'

Usually, the first sighting of the column arrives on cue, at half-time of the first provincial Championship football match. Right there in the RTÉ studio, all decked out in new state-sponsored suits, reclining on the leather armchairs, a clipboard on their laps. The three wise men. There for us mere mortals, to tell us how to think and what to say about a match.

What a service to the nation!

Joe will have the bearing of a man who has just been served a cowpat for his lunch. Pat will be the verge of giving himself a hernia with the stress of it all and Colm, well Colm will be there. Tired. Fed-up. Scundered.

Then, the bitterness really starts. Joe majors in the weakness of teams, specifically managers that he has no love for. Pat's preoccupation is normally the ratio of passes played by hand or foot and as such, most of his input will centre around this issue. Colm will be tired, give it his best shot and all that, but he really would rather be anywhere else.

For the next week you could wallpaper the back bedroom with the column inches devoted by reporters to assessing the performance of the pundits. That's even before you get to the page leads of recently-retired players uniformly stating that there is no place in a amateur game for personal abuse. No place at all.

I like Joe. From what I see of Pat and Colm, I like them too, but there's something about this Sky deal to screen over a dozen live games in the upcoming All-Ireland series that is going to redefine the roles of 'Team JoePatColm with your host, Michael Lyster'. It will be a game-changer.

Sky bring sunny optimism.

On Sky, everything is hunky-dory. If two dart throwers couldn't hit a cow on the backside with a shovel, we are told that the tension is forcing errors. If a tie involving Hull and Swansea is winding down with neither side comfortable with the idea of scoring a goal, the message is that this is an absorbing battle.

The quality and thread-count of Jamie Redknapp's three-piece suits depends on the message being driven home regularly that 'This is the best League in the world', even though the evidence is a clear illustration that it's just an illusion.

Perhaps Sky might bring something novel and fresh to the coverage of Gaelic games. With all their experience, camera angles and crash, bang, wallop, maybe the way it is covered at present could be improved upon. Most importantly, they will bring a level of punditry that will bring enthusiasm.

In time, that is bound to become grating, and if a game is awful we might welcome the chance to hear that being voiced in a studio. But for now, most of us would be quite happy to go a summer without being told that the skills of Gaelic football in particular are nowhere near what they used to be, when the re-runs of old All-Ireland finals show the opposite.

Sky don't dabble with amateur sports, but then again, the GAA is a unique sporting organisation. They will enter whatever deal is to be done and they will find a GAA solution to a GAA problem.

The sports of Gaelic football and hurling will not be transformed overnight and there will be no Transfer Deadline Day with Twitter feeds being choked up with rumours that a Benny Heron has been spotted travelling in a chauffeur-driven car on his way to Healy Park to broker a transfer deal with Tyrone.

And as for those that have allowed themselves to believe that Rupert Murdoch and his wishes will be allowed to set the tone for how the GAA run their affairs, they couldn't be more mistaken. If there was a whiff of that, those at the top of the GAA would immediately back off.

We have nothing to fear, said Franklin D Roosevelt, but fear itself.

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