Free-to-air hurling was again the big talking point from the weekend's GAA. A week after Clare and Limerick served up an instant classic at the Gaelic Grounds in front of 30,000 people, Cork and Tipp played out a monumental Munster round robin draw in front of 37,000 people that at times felt barely believable. There were 50 scores between the two counties and a madcap ending with unbelievable goals and points.
Both games were only available to be watched on GAA GO. While RTÉ viewers were served up two provincial football finals each decided by 14 points today, two of the most high profile games in the Munster Hurling Championship - arguably the best sporting spectacle in this country since the round robin was initiated - were paywalled.
Many hurling people are not happy. Many GAA fans are not happy.
The issue came up on this week's Sunday Game. Donal Óg Cusack, perhaps hurling's most outspoken advocate on the public airwaves, had a lot to say on the issue. He asked if the GAA and RTÉ are exploiting hurling, said the GAA is failing the sport, and wondered if 2023 should be declared the year of rugby country. In a week when RTÉ's anodyne punditry has been under the microscope, Cusack, Jackie Tyrell and present Jacqui Hurley served up a very compelling five minute discussion on the biggest topic in the sport at the moment.
Here's some of Cusack's best lines:
Hurling needs oxygen. I have no issue with pay-per-view. That's part of the landscape and it has its role to play. By next weekend, when Clare play Waterford, four of the biggest Munster games will have been on pay-per-view.
You have to ask, 'who is responsible for the promotion of hurling?' Because whoever it is, is not doing a good job of it. The GAA took on the trusteeship of it and it looks like they're actually shrinking the game, not growing it. You'd have to question are RTÉ and the GAA exploiting hurling?
It looks very much like they're using hurling to get this new venture off the ground whereas it should be the other way around..
We've lost a huge opportunity over the last few weeks and I'd have to say that the GAA has failed hurling at this stage.
You can watch the full discussion here.
Impassioned debate on the broadcasting of hurling. #SundayGame. pic.twitter.com/eKL6O0zKte
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 7, 2023
Jackie Tyrell was in full agreement and talked about the challenges in getting the Joe McDonagh final on RTÉ when the Tailteann Cup was broadcast on the national broadcaster in its first year.
Somewhat strangely, Cusack mentioned the difference in the camera angle between an All-Ireland hurling quarterfinal and a Tailteann Cup game at Croke Park the following day. Cusack said he believes the different angle was intended to show a bigger crowd for the football game. However, gaelic football wasn't the only sport to receive criticism. Donal Óg also talked about RTÉ's support of rugby in a World Cup year.. He said he'd told Hurley and RTÉ Head of Sport Declan McBennett that the production team should hang a rugby ball in the corner of the screen during The Sunday Game.
"In terms of being a competitive space, the GAA have waved a white flag because we've now given 2023 over to rugby country."
A quick scan of social media shows a lot of support for Donal Óg's stance. For those fortunate enough to live in Munster's hurling heartlands, the game is in rude health, with over 300,000 people expected on the terraces before the summer is out.
The Munster round robin should be an opportunity for the whole country to bask in the brilliance of hurling, however.
SEE ALSO: Jack O'Connor Spoke Incredibly On The Attitude Of Clifford Brothers After Poignant Munster Win