Belfast Telegraph

Pity RTE always seem to miss what's best in GAA

By Declan Bogue

Another November, another underwhelming GAA documentary from RTÉ, with 'Skin In The Game', screened last week.

So lads, the long, lingering shots of Cork camogie player Anna Geary sweating profusely during a Bikram Yoga session. Who exactly came up with this concept, reducing the sport of camogie to some cheap ogle-fest worthy of women's beach volleyball?

Huge chunks of the documentary were given over to the fledgling business career of 2010 Hurler of the Year, Lar Corbett. Already a publican in Thurles, Lar has made the brave decision to open an Italian restaurant in the town.

Bravo to such courage, we say. Especially when he admitted that he hadn't really a clue what the food would be like, but he had an idea of the general vibe. The only thing is, it felt like an extended advertisement.

After years spent watching ESPN's 30-for-30 series and enjoying the detail that American sports receive in their coverage, I have come to the conclusion that RTÉ will never produce a GAA documentary worth watching.

There are reasons for this. Firstly, Irish people in general do not have an exhibitionist streak. Their mortification has certain limits and they are guarded when they see a camera. The culture of 'say nothing' is strong in the GAA and players do not wish to give any ammunition for opponents to use, or excuses for a manager to drop them.

Americans believe in telling their story and that salvation comes from their testimony. It's ingrained.

The second is the fact that RTÉ, despite many years of covering GAA, still struggle with the amateur concept. Hence we have to shoe-horn in at some point in every documentary the conceit that 'these boys do it for free.'

The final reason is that there is a common language used among players that there is a great and noble sacrifice going on here. That they are giving up their time and sure, if they weren't all playing GAA, they would all be millionaires.

Although the GAA has somewhat cocooned Corbett's life, it has also enhanced it.

He has enjoyed foreign travel in the guise of a GAA player and has been equipped with the means to set himself up with a pub and a restaurant.

Not just any Joe Soap could walk into a bank, confessing no real idea about food, but looking for the readies to open a restaurant anyway. There is a trade-off for all the time invested in your favourite pastime.

All the positivity that sport brings to the lives of these elite players must have ended up on the cutting room floor. What a pity.

YouTube video of Anna Geary's Bikram Yoga session on RTE

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