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Why wasn't glory of Ulster on TV?

By Declan Bogue

Ah, it's a different Ulster Football Championship now, isn't it? Easier on the eye. Desirable. More fun to be around.

And there's always the promise of Donegal and Tyrone and the way they might commit sanctioned faction-fighting and attempted finger-breaking on each other come Sunday week. What a time to be alive!

Of course you recall all the cribbing. And if you are suffering from a slipping clutch in the brain, you might even be thinking of the year before, or the year before that.

But now, Ulster can walk into the nightclub, expensively dressed and the envy of the rest. It can walk past the boys that sniggered up their sleeves and rightfully imply, 'How do you like me now?'

For a while there, we had the Sunday Game pundits dusting down their template arguments. Maybe it's because they are on the road so long, but it feels that we have been listening to and reading 'The Death of Gaelic Football Part 13, 14, & 15 - And More To Come Next Week', for a few years now.

So on Sunday night, host anchor Des Cahill almost puked with shock when Ciaran Whelan said: "Thank God for Ulster."

'Thank God for Ulster' isn't a common sentiment in general, but by virtue of four semi-finals and a forest-fire of a final in store, we could end up with five good games in a provincial Championship.

Elsewhere? Well, Galway toppling Mayo, and Tipperary stepping over the slumbering giant of Cork football created a little cliff-hanger of drama.

A bit of a pity then, that neither semi-final replay was afforded live TV coverage.

An email arrived into our Inbox this week from Jimmy Conlon of Glengormley. Unable to travel to attend the games anymore, he spoke of his frustrations that what was on offer was hardly likely to get the dander up.

On the Ulster replays, he wrote: "These are two of the highest profile Gaelic Football games being played this weekend! And not one of them televised live.

"Why then is RTE, BBC & Sky not showing either of these games live. Who really wants to see Kerry playing Tipperary?"

The reason for that, is that the television schedules had already been worked out, with little wriggle-room for unexpected replays.

Jimmy adds: "Watching a deferred game is certainly no consolation whatsoever, and certainly not Kerry & Tipperary, whether live or deferred."

Perhaps the GAA are missing out on the most effective marketing tool - live televised games - because of their existing contracts and restrictions.

Then again, looking at the attendance figures, maybe they can live with it. The first Donegal - Monaghan game attracted 16,238. The replay brought 938 more souls inside the Breffni Park gates.

And although Tyrone-Cavan had deferred coverage, they topped the 19,141 crowd the first day by attracting 20,223 for the second instalment.

Paraic Duffy said this at the 2015 Congress: "Live TV coverage is good for us but it's vital to get the balance right between offering too much and encouraging people to stay at home or showing less and attracting them to the games."

The message is that the GAA does not exist to facilitate television. Not much good to Jimmy in Glengormley though.

Belfast Telegraph


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