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'I Never Thought Live Games Would Work' - Michael Lyster On RTE Decision That Changed GAA

'I Never Thought Live Games Would Work' - Michael Lyster On RTE Decision That Changed GAA
By Conor Neville Updated

Michael Lyster took us back to his earliest days as the Sunday Game frontman in the 1980s, when it was the late Enda Colleran in his jumper delivering the insights rather than Tomás O'Sé in his dicky bow and tuxedo.

These were the days when Lyster and Colleran used to travel to and from games via helicopter. The helicopters were supplied by 'Celtic Helicopters', the company owned by Conor and Ciaran Haughey, son of the Taoiseach. After the game, it was back to Donnybrook in time for the evening show.

On today's episode of the Hard Shoulder, Balls.ie's weekly GAA podcast, Lyster discussed those days and revealed his initial scepticism back when RTE Head of Sport Tim O'Connor announced they would move towards screening live games in the provincial championship.

Prior to 1995, the only games that were typically shown live were the semi-finals and finals in both the hurling and football championships. Occasionally, a provincial final or some other such game would be shown live but there was never any rhyme or reason behind the selection of these games.

I didn't believe in this thing. When Tim O'Connor, the head of RTE Sport, suggested these live matches, I said to myself, 'no, this isn't the English league...'

I just felt Ireland was a small country with a small population. People went out to see matches here and it didn't necessarily have a big population to draw on.

In fact, the first year we did it, it didn't really work, the audience figures were poor. Because the first year we had the matches on at tea-time, the logic being if there were club games on around the country, people would come in and watch the match at tea-time and it wasn't really working out.

And then Tim O'Connor said the following year, 'd'you know what, we're going to go with these games in the afternoon at 3.00 or 3.30'. And you thinking, 'okay, fine, if it didn't work last year, it really isn't going to work!'

D'you know what? It did and it took off. Straight away. It didn't arrive at the audience it has now but the figures were encouraging. And it built and built and that was it.

On the pod, Lyster also talked about:

  • the panelists he's worked with
  • how the game has changed over the years
  • his heart scare
  • he has a go at guessing the RTE pundit from the quote

Listen to the podcast below:



Michael was speaking on the fifth episode of this year's Hard Shoulder podcast, a weekly GAA podcast hosted by Meath legends Anthony Moyles and Niall Kelly. The podcast will run for the rest of the season and will feature many more special guests, and scientists [citation needed] believe it will improve your life by somewhere in the region of 84%.

In addition to the big interview, we quiz our guests and discuss some of the big stories to arise from the past week. 

Previous interviewees include Dublin's Bernard Brogan, Kildare forward Johnny Doyle and Wexford's Matty Forde. Listen here.


You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

Read more: 'Nobody Told John Leahy I Didn't Have A Sister' - Balls Remembers A Truly Legendary Galway-Tipp Rivalry

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