• Home
  • /
  • GAA
  • /
  • Opinion: GAA Fans Deserve Better Than RTE's League Sunday

Opinion: GAA Fans Deserve Better Than RTE's League Sunday

Opinion: GAA Fans Deserve Better Than RTE's League Sunday
By Gavin Cooney Updated
Share this article

A glance at the RTE 2 schedules last night: League Sunday followed by First Dates. One involved a forced, uncomfortable arrangement given little air time to develop into something meaningful beyond the inanity of banal platitudes. The other was First Dates.

The great frustration of the GAA viewer will forever be the structure of the Championship - archaic to the regular fan; arcane to the casual one - but almost by accident, the Association has stumbled across a format that works in the league. So until the GAA finally get that structure in order, the sane reaction by fans and media alike should be to treat the league as the main competition, and leave the most of the Championship as a quaint old upholder of tradition and occasional entertainment.

Hell, the decision to abolish the football semi-finals left yesterday as a straight-out, thrilling divisional shoot-out, meaning that we unwittingly found ourselves in El Dorado, and behind the gates we found the holy grail: A Good Structural Decision By The GAA.

Yesterday was an enthralling day of football and hurling: a shoot-out in the hurling quarter-finals along with a manic day of scrambling across four divisions in football. Following the football games live on radio or across social media was like playing a kind of glorious whack-a-mole: Monaghan and Donegal both put themselves in contention for the league final before Kerry squeezed through; Galway stole promotion from Meath; Tipperary stunned Armagh in a promotion duel in Division Three; Longford hauled Antrim through the trapdoor of Division Four, clambering over them by virtue of a 77th-minute free.

There was so much going on that it was nigh on impossible to decide where to look, but amid the frenzy sat a deep peace that inter-county competition could be so energising when away from the absurdities of the provincial structure.

Unfortunately, such an experience was not reflected on RTE's League Sunday. The drama and jeopardy of Division One failed to transmit: games were shown one-by-one, rather than collated and shown concurrently, Match of the Day-style. Quibbles over that decision could at least be offset by the fact that there was at least footage, something that couldn't be said about Divisions Three and Four.

The discussion of the bottom two divisions was restricted to Michael Lyster calling out the results over a graphic on the table, with Billy Joe Padden and Rory Kavanagh asked to say something in inane recognition. Some hurling games were ignored too: there was no footage from the remarkable relegation play-off between Laois and Kerry, a game that yielded 5-50 after extra time.

Advertisement
Recommended

The failure to show any of these games - games with something tangible on the line, meaning they were guaranteed to be entertaining, particularly the Division Three games - means questions should be raised as to how RTE really treat the league. Last night's offering felt utterly tokenistic and anachronistic.

There was an 'it's only the league' vibe to the whole broadcast: something to get out of the way before the serious business of the Championship gets going. This is an idea that a new breed of GAA fan has long since been disabused of, when it became clear that Kilkenny and then Dublin were winning All-Irelands by taking the competition seriously and that the rest of the league offered consistent, competitive action.

Were competing broadcasters to take up the rights for the league, chances are that there would be cameras at games involving teams from Division Three and Four. Eir Sport's live Saturday night coverage has been innovative and superb, with games from the lower divisions broadcast live and supported by enormous social media activity, and Eir do not have the onus of public service that rests on RTE.

Advertisement

Advertisement

RTE may claim that there simply is not enough time to show highlights of all games, but there is an infinite amount of space on the RTE player to host action from games, and the broadcaster have had no issue live streaming Championship games online in the past.

One of the main stumbling blocks holding back wide-scale Championship reform is the fact that the weaker counties are unwilling to be consigned to lower-ranked competition (it's the reason the Tommy Murphy Cup failed), and the fact that RTE see fit to largely ignore those games in the league will only ever strengthen their stance against it: it's not necessarily the quality of the games that county boards will react against, it is the idea that they are being ignored, or don't matter in the supposedly democratic GAA.

RTE's Championship coverage is very good, and The Sunday Game highlights programme will be a longer show with fewer games, meaning much time will be devoted to bemoaning uncompetitive games in a lunatic structure. There will be moaning too, that such one-sided games and turgid styles of play are hurting the game in the long-term, with kids more likely to play the rival sports that Pat Spillane seems obsessed with describing as "sexy".

Advertisement

There are complaints too about the disappearance of some games behind the Sky Sports paywall,  and Spillane also complained about the moving of the All-Ireland finals from September as a mortal blow for the Association, allowing the "sexy" sports a vacuum in which to attract voracious eyeballs.

These are legitimate arguments, but they are greatly weakened by the fact that RTE had oodles of great games at their disposal this weekend, and largely ignored them.

Many GAA fans have long since dismissed the notion that 'it's only the league' when compared to Championship, and have realised that the league should become the Championship. League Sunday should move with the times too.

Advertisement

See Also: John Mullane Has Basically Declared The End Of The Brian Cody Era

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Share this article

Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com

Advertisement