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No Saturday Game Tonight Is Another Own Goal For The National Broadcaster

No Saturday Game Tonight Is Another Own Goal For The National Broadcaster
By Donny Mahoney Updated
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It seems like every passing day of late we've been provided with evidence of how out-of-touch the management of RTÉ is with the rest of Ireland.

Yet we don't need tortured explanations from executive board members at the Public Accounts Committee to grasp the scale of this disconnectedness. We just need to scan tonight's RTÉ TV listings.

Tonight on RTÉ 1, after the news at 9.15pm, viewers can watch DannyBoy, a comedy about Ireland in the early 1980s. Over RTE 2, there's The Program, a very average film about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Meanwhile, the thousands of people who didn't watch today's All-Ireland quarterfinals on GAAGO will be sitting idly by, waiting 24 hours  for highlights of today's games.

All four quarterfinals will be up for analysis on the Sunday Game tomorrow, but many of us have spent the week wondering why the Saturday Game won't be aired tonight.

Why invent a Saturday GAA highlights programme if not to air it on the day when there are no GAA games on free-to-air television?

Sure, there was never a highlights show for Saturday night quarterfinal in the Sky Sports era but the dynamic changed when GAAGO began to broadcast exclusive games.


The national broadcaster is a joint owner of GAAGO (indeed broadcaster's embattled director general sat on its board up to Monday).

If today's two quarterfinals in our national sport must be jettisoned behind a paywall, surely there's an impetus on the national broadcaster to provide highlights of the games?

This year. a Saturday night GAA highlights programme seemed to be created for this exact situation.


Instead RTÉ is airing two very ordinary films, as it continues to lose the hearts and minds of TV license payers.

What of The Saturday Game?

GAA supporters have long called for a second highlights programme because it's simply impossible to coherently provide highlights across two codes on one 90-minute TV programme.

On the same day the GAA announced GAAGO would be airing exclusive games, we learned of a Saturday night highlights programme. There was genuine excitement when it was announced that there'd be a Saturday Game. There's no such thing as too much GAA on RTÉ.


The Saturday Game premiered in early May. It had a stripped back, business casual vibe compared to its Sunday sibling. Our only major complaint with it is that it's not on television enough.

There was no Saturday Game last Saturday when GAAGo had three exclusive games across the football and hurling championships, so it obviously wasn't going to be on tonight.

Maybe 90 minutes is enough to discuss four games of gaelic football. But here's the issue - and it loops in with all of ructions in Leinster House this week - it's unclear if the joint-owners of GAAGO have fully appreciated the nature of the complaints about the streaming service.


Scheduling the best Munster hurling fixtures and the overwhelming majority of Kerry football games on GAAGO this season was a guaranteed way to build a subscriber base.

The outcry across the week  about the scheduling of today's games - especially in Kerry - was proof that the complaints with GAAGO are not just about annoyance, they're about access.

For the elderly, for those who live in areas of poor broadband coverage, for those who couldn't afford the annual subscription fee, GAAGO is a step too far. A Saturday evening highlights show would have provided some succour for anyone who couldn't watch the GAAGO games today.


For reasons we're not quite sure about, The Saturday Game won't be on tonight.

Obviously this doesn't hold a candle to any of the sorry tales of corporate misgovernance we've learned over the past fortnight. But it feels like an indicator of a big disconnect, and another own goal in what's been a catastrophic month for the reputation of the national broadcaster.

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