AFTER the combination of Storm Emma and the Beast From The East, we’d have thought that we were done in terms of extreme weather for another while, but Mother Nature – a woman sick of footballs and sliothars being kicked over her fence – had other ideas.
In any other year, weather so bad to force the four hurling quarter-finals to be postponed would be something to talk about for months; this time, however, it’s comfortably in the runners-up spot.
The relegation play-off game in Páirc Uí Rinn between Cork and Waterford was the only Division 1 match to go ahead, meaning that it was bumped up the TG4 schedule to become the live match. That TG4 were able to make changes on the hoof – initially, they were going to be live from Wexford and Limerick – is a credit to their impressive sports department, led by Rónán Ó Coisdealbha.
It meant that, for the second time in 20 hours, a Cork senior team were live on television, with the footballers’ clash with Clare having been broadcast on eir Sport on Saturday evening.
Even with the snow, the hurling game had a far higher attendance with the football, which is understandable given that it was a higher-profile fixture between two top counties, but 7pm on a Saturday – and St Patrick’s Day – was never going to attract the casual viewer to the football tie.
A tweet we sent a half-hour before throw-in, showing a near-empty main stand and joking that the names of the supporters would be announced to the players as it would take less time, drew a lot of engagement on something which is admittedly not a new problem.
Apparently, to be fair, both Cork and Clare would have preferred that their game be paired with the hurling, but eir Sport insisted that it be held on Saturday so that it could be transmitted. To our minds, it’s a strange choice of a live match, it’s not as if either side were in the thick of the hunt for promotion – indeed, the loss signalled the end of Cork’s lingering hopes and they now travel to Roscommon next weekend with a contagion of worry that the wrong combination of results could see them drop down to Division 3.
The replies to the tweet debated the rights and wrongs of where blame should be ascribed – some felt that fans shouldn’t feel a duty to go to games, whereas others felt that the team needed support now more than ever. For what it’s worth, we weren’t trying to push responsibility either way, the tweet was a snapshot of something that was happening, presented without comment and letting the reader make up his or her own mind.
As we said above, the lack of support for the footballers is nothing new. In 2011, Cork’s first competitive home game as All-Ireland champions was the home league game against Monaghan. It was their third game of the campaign and came after they had started with a win away to Kerry. It was the highest Cork football had been riding since the glory days under Billy Morgan, yet the crowd in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was 1,375.
Saturday evening’s attendance was only about a third of that and we will be keeping an eye on the social media feed of UCC sports history academic Paul Rouse this week as he usually publishes viewing figures for televised games. Perhaps eir Sport has a higher concentration of subscribers in Cork and/or Clare and that will bump up the figures, but we’d be doubtful that that would be the case.
With the Cork footballers, it’s something of a chicken-and-egg situation. Would they perform better with a larger loyal support? Or do they need to get results to show that they are worth following? Different people will have different views, no doubt.
We’ll leave the final word with Parthalán Cremin, who came up with a bit of lateral thinking in those replies. While Conor Cronin suggested moving a few games to Clonakilty or Mallow to see if that would result in larger attendances, Parthalán had a different idea: “Killarney – it’s the only place Cork footballers get a bit of support.”