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RTÉ Defend Lack Of Munster Hurling Games On Free-To-Air TV

29 April 2023; Tom Morrissey of Limerick is tackled by John Conlon of Clare during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 2 match between Limerick and Clare at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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RTÉ head of sport Declan McBennett has denied that Munster Hurling Championship games are being used to drive subscriptions for GAAGO.

The platform is a joint venture between the national broadcaster and the GAA, while McBennett is also a GAAGO director.

Clare's victory over Limerick and the draw between Cork and Tipperary - the year's two best hurling games so far - were both broadcast on GAAGO leading to anger that they were not shown on free-to-air TV.

"I understand where people are coming from, but it's not true," McBennett told RTÉ Radio One.

"I've heard this stated over the last 24 - 48 hours. The reality of it is that we did Cork vs Waterford and we done Limerick [vs Waterford] on RTÉ. The Limerick vs Clare game was initially scheduled for the Sunday and that was to be an RTÉ game.

"Due to circumstances in Limerick, which were entirely outside of the control of RTÉ and I'd imagine outside of the control of the GAA, that game was moved to the Saturday, and hence went to GAAGO. RTÉ picked up Cork vs Waterford. [That game] unfortunately did not meet the iconic status of the Limerick vs Clare game, but that's the nature of sport.

"We will be doing Clare vs Cork and Tipperary vs Limerick in two weeks' time when GAAGO are doing the key football matches that have emerged - Kerry vs Mayo and Galway vs Tyrone."


22 January 2023; Declan McBennett, RTÉ Group Head of Sport. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

On Sunday, RTÉ showed the Connacht and Munster provincial football finals which ended in easy victories for Galway and Kerry, respectively. McBennett denied that RTÉ had "dropped the ball" by showing those two football games rather than the draw between Cork and Tipperary which was broadcast on GAAGO the previous evening. He said that RTÉ is "contractually obliged" to show all six provincial finals.


"You have to look at and understand the way rights packages are structured," said McBennett.


"RTÉ have the rights and are very grateful to have the rights to 31 matches in the Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire competitions. If you break down those 31, two of them are finals, four are semi-finals, there are four quarter-finals, two in hurling and two in football, and there are six provincial finals.

"Each one of those form a part of what are known as the packages that RTÉ or any broadcaster can buy. That's 16 of the 31 matches that are already accounted for and predetermined.


"Essentially then there are 15 matches across eight weeks, four provinces, and two codes, whereby you have a degree of discretion.

"When you're operating within a very condensed calendar, which we now are because the GAA have adopted that for their own good reasons, you are inevitably going to have a clash of major hurling matches coming up against major football matches. If there's a significant hurling match that clashes with those, then inevitably, there has to be a second platform.

"We cannot exclusively - on the basis of 15 games across eight weekends, four provinces and two codes - simply concentrate on the Munster Hurling Championship. That is not feasible. There are more games than ever available to the public."


Regarding which games are shown on GAAGO, McBennett said: "It's a combination of RTÉ picking the games that they either want or are mandated to do, and then subsequently the second platform, which used to be Sky Sports and is now GAAGO, has the opportunity to pick up the rest. They are now doing 39 games in comparison to Sky when they were doing 14.

"I'm part of the process that decides in terms of the picks but I'm not part of the process in terms of determining when they are scheduled. That's a matter entirely for the GAA."

McBennett said that a typical Munster Hurling Championship clash on RTÉ would expect to garner an audience of over 250,000. He added that he does know the audience figures for the Munster hurling games shown so far on GAAGO but is not at liberty to disclose them.


"I can tell people that they are absolutely meeting their targets and meeting expectations," he said.

See Also: Cusack And Tyrrell Call For Crackdown On 'Worrying' Hurling Incidents

jackie tyrrell donal og cusack hurling high tackles



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