We're spoiled with the level of coverage the GAA gets in the modern era

We're spoiled with the level of coverage the GAA gets in the modern era
Micheal McWeeney of Leitrim and Tony Donnelly of New York in the opener in this year's championship. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

A SUNDAY off allowed for the opportunity to sit on the couch and watch the first edition of The Sunday Game this summer as we caught up on some work.

The season opener is always an opportunity for a catch-up and a look ahead, beginning with the kind of video montage at which RTÉ Sport excel. A round-table discussion in the Castlebar Mitchels clubhouse allowed for the airing of views on different topics, while the inclusion of Conor Moore’s impression of panel members provided some excellent light relief.

It was interesting to note the views of so many panellists – Joe Brolly and Colm O’Rourke to name two – who wished that the first Sunday Game of the year had been the previous week, at Gaelic Park in New York for the meeting of the home ‘county’ and Leitrim.

As Michael Foley outlined in The Sunday Times two games ago, this was a consensus which emerged on social media last Sunday evening, but only as an entertaining game developed, with few calling for live coverage beforehand.

Given that RTÉ and Sky Sports only have a limited number of games each – and there was quite a bit of outcry when they announced that they would be showing – it’s not hard to imagine the outcry if New York v Leitrim was chosen, with all of the expense involved, and the game proved to be a wipeout.

It’s the same with Sky’s games, complaints about people being denied the chance to watch their county when many of them were clashes which otherwise would not have been on television at all. Of course, if you go too far and televise everything, then the refrain will be that attendances at matches are suffering.

The growth in coverage, and therefore the expectation of same, has grown exponentially over the past three decades. While Mondays were always busy with match reports, now every day is laden with GAA analysis, interviews and previews – this very column an example of the increase.

Fergal Whitely of Dublin in action against Conor Fogarty of Kilkenny on Sunday. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Fergal Whitely of Dublin in action against Conor Fogarty of Kilkenny on Sunday. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

The articles around this one are just a percentage of what’s on offer, with most papers having daily supplements or hefty sports sections, while the internet extends the reach further. As a comparison, we called up the archives to see what things were like in the past.

On Tuesday, May 15, 1990, The Cork Examiner featured a follow-on from Limerick’s Munster SHC win over Clare on the Sunday (written by Echo colleague Mark Woods), a column preview of Cork’s minor hurling tie with Kerry, a small Kelleher Shield roundup and a piece on Killorglin Community College, who had won the All-Ireland Vocational Schools U16 title.

The rest of the page – for the GAA didn’t even take up all of it – was taken up by the Whitbread Round The World Race and an upcoming Nigel Benn WBO middleweight title defence.

Ah, but the Examiner was Cork- and Munster-focused, you say, so how about the Irish Independent? A news item on ankle surgery for Antrim hurler Olcan McFetridge, a review of All-Star team expenses and doubt cast on a sponsorship deal the Dublin County Board had entered into with Kaliber. It amounted to about a third of the page, vying for attention alongside greyhounds, athletics and cycling.

This, remember, was back in the so-called golden age, when the straight knockout system made everything better, we are told with misty-eyed nostalgia which neglects to consider just why the back door was brought in in 2001.

May 15 was a Tuesday that year, too, and the Indo were up to three-quarters of a page of GAA, with rugby making up the rest. Fermanagh and Donegal were furious about having to play an Ulster SFC replay on a Saturday, Galway’s Kevin Walsh was set to return for the game against Roscommon and the upcoming new qualifier system was experiencing problems four weeks before its commencement date as provincial fixture scheduling meant that some back-door clashes were to be delayed.

Contrast that level of coverage with what’s available to you today as you open your newspaper or, more likely, your internet browser. It might be nice to reminisce about the old days, but generally the bad parts are left out and, by and large, the progress has been positive.

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