Cork GAA fans must get used to a new model to watch inter-county action

Rebels will have to pay to stream matches as well as picking them up on RTÉ or heading to see them live
Cork GAA fans must get used to a new model to watch inter-county action

Darragh Fitzgibbon hits a goal against Tipp last season. Next year's clash is set to be shown on GAAGo. Picture: George Tewkesbury/Sportsfile

ANY Galway-Mayo fixture is always an attractive proposition for both counties, irrespective of the timing or the competition, but when the Galway-Mayo FBD League game was fixed for the Connacht GAA Dome in Bekan back in early January, only 300 people were allowed to attend because of Covid-19 safety reasons.

On the flip side, the game was still accessible, and the take-up underlined just how popular the fixture remains – over 5,000 spectators bought a ticket to stream the match, which resulted in a total income of more than €50,000.

Big money now dictates the inter-county game. Despite Galway becoming the first GAA county to break the €2m barrier for inter-county team spending in a single season this year, the county board’s end-of-year accounts still showed an operating profit of €410,768.

The Galway hurling championship comprised 24 teams and more games than in any other county championship but club fixtures, through gate receipts and streaming, brought in €1.5m. Most counties don’t distinguish what revenue was generated directly from its streaming of their club championships in their annual accounts, but it still provides a sizeable chunk of cash.

The appetite not to leave the comfort of the sitting room was always bound to wane once the turnstiles reopened. But it was foolish for county boards not to realise the financial potential and capacity streaming still had, especially when it can reach an audience anywhere in the world.

Back in 2020, 65 Galway club matches involving 55 clubs were watched in 33 countries. 

The same year, 42 of the 46 games in an epic Tyrone club football championship were streamed in 113 countries.

Although the turnstiles are clicking again, it’s a whole new GAA world in the post-pandemic environment. 

The split season is the obvious change but the way in which the GAA streaming service became so prominent in the new GAA broadcasting deal underlined how now is the right time to expand the coverage through a controlled media service.

RTÉ television will continue to show 31 championship games, while the BBC retains its Ulster SFC rights. RTÉ will also televise the Joe McDonagh cup final, both Tailteann Cup semi-finals and the final for the next five years.

A new sharing arrangement between RTÉ and TG4 will see an increase in the number of Saturday night free-to-air league games broadcast. BBC will also stream up to 10 league games involving Ulster teams per season.


With GAAGO continuing to stream matches to the diaspora worldwide, approximately 200 games from inter-county competition will be broadcast each year as a result of the new deal. That will require more flexibility but streaming provides that luxury. 

Sky Sports’ coverage was almost exclusively built around Saturday evenings, but GAAGO will run games on both weekend days, with subscribers or purchasers being able to pick games often in direct competition to what RTÉ are showing.

Gaago presenter Grainne McElwain with Marc Ó Sé and Michael Murphy at the media launch of the GAAGO. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Gaago presenter Grainne McElwain with Marc Ó Sé and Michael Murphy at the media launch of the GAAGO. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The broadens the choice, while also catering for the majority of counties involved in the championships. That had long been a challenge for the GAA in their broadcasting rights deals, and the amount of games they could actually show live.

That had become even more of an issue in an expanded championship, especially since the introduction of the round-robin hurling, and particularly now with the new football championship format in 2023, along with the expansion of the Tailteann Cup.

Too often, there was a host of big game TV casualties. That was especially evident during the early part of recent summers when the feast was so great that a number of marquee matches didn’t make the live banquet.

More choice though naturally means more money to be paid by the consumer. There will always be resistance to paywalls but most consumers realise now too that the regular TV licence fee no longer covers all bases.

Most of those viewers forced to pay county boards to watch club games during the pandemic were also paying a higher price than what GAAGO will be commanding in the coming year.

There is still a paywall but at €59, if it’s purchased before December 31, €79 after that, it’s very reasonable. GAA members will also have a 10% discount once they are registered on Foireann, while care homes will have free access with a code provided by their county PRO. Much of that price plan and new service is designed to reduce the cynicism around the GAA’s deal with Sky Sports during their nine-year association.


The new reality though, is that with some of the championship’s marquee games being streamed – including the Clare/Limerick Munster championship clash – streaming has become a priority purchase for the wider GAA supporter.  GAAGO will have exclusive coverage of four Munster championship hurling games along with the two Saturday All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Live streaming has already transformed the way we think of television and video, because online video is gradually replacing TV. Viewers no longer segregate linear online content from TV programming; they consume whatever they want on a screen from wherever they choose.

The availability of technology has made streaming more accessible to everyone. But what has radically changed in terms of GAA viewing is the culture.

During the pandemic, live streaming of club games quickly emerged as an essential aspect of GAA life. And as the new GAA broadcasting deal has proved, streaming has also emerged as an essential part of the new future of how a GAA audience views those games.

The GAA are just merely moving with the times – and the trends.

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