Sky Sports launched their GAA coverage at a premium level suite in the Hogan Stand this afternoon. From the identity of the presenters to the highlights package to the audience (UK or Irish) they are intent on targeting, here is the lowdown on Sky's plans for their GAA coverage.
Rachel Wyse was widely tipped to take up the role of anchor and she is on board. More surprisingly, she will be joined for all the matches by co-anchor and former dual code rugby player Brian Carney. Originally from Wicklow, Carney played rugby union for Munster and earned a few caps for Ireland during the 2007 tour of Argentina. However, he is better known for playing rugby league for over a decade, most notably for Wigan. He played Gaelic football for Vallymount, "not to any great standard" until the age of 20, winning a Wicklow Junior championship in 1998.
They will not alternate presenting duties but will present games together simultaneously. Director of Production, Steve Smith says the presenting format will be modelled on the style the use for Formula One.
They will not be bringing the coverage from a colourless studio in London. Every game will be broadcast on location, with Wyse, Carney, Jamsie O Connor and Nicky English all rocking up at Nowlan Park on 7 June.
Carney envisages that will erect a temporary studio, rather than broadcast from the sideline in a fashion similar to BT Sport's football coverage. Though, when TV3 showed last year's Kilkenny-Tipperary qualifier from Nowlan Park, Matt Cooper, Daithi Regan and Nicky English were all standing on the sideline in the evening sun.
Smith says that Sky production managers have done recces of several grounds and the feedback has been good. They don't as yet know every ground from which they will be broadcasting.
The Highlights package
For the weekly highlights package, don't expect a GAA equivalent of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher standing in front of a big screen or Austin Healey or Matt Dawson bouncing around a studio, a la BT Sports rugby magazine programme. There will be no Sunday Game style format, no studio or no major analyses, simply a round-up of the weekend's action aimed primarily at the UK audience. Steve Smith outlined how the highlights programme will look.
The highlights package is going to be a round-up of the games of the week primarily aimed at the UK audience so that it completes the narrative on Sky Sports. That's why it was important for us that we also had simulcast rights for the final because what we wanted to do was complete the narrative for the season and the highlights package is part of that. It will be a taped show to bring everything in summary and it will be available on demand and catch up through the Sky platform.
No dumbing down
Sky will not be assuming a remedial of level knowledge on the part of the audience. Carney and Smith were both adamant there will be "no ABC lessons in it" and "first and foremost you pay your respect to the core GAA supporters." Carney did say that if you feel something is "too in-depth you may need to expand", however, Carney says this is true of rugby league also and it will be to the presenters to tread a fine line.
Aside from Wyse and Carney, the rest of the Sky team looks very similar to that used by Tv3 in the past few years. O'Connor and English (co-commentary), the hurling experts, with Canavan and Paul Earley (co-commentary) on football. The commentators are Mike Finnerty and Dave McIntyre. Steve Smith does say, however, that they envisage adding to their initial stable of pundits.