Play it again, Des – actually no thanks!

It probably stemmed from a feeling – whether justified or otherwise – of feeling left out. How I started going to #GAA matches, that is. Dad was gently ‘persuaded’ to get me a wheelchair ticket for a ticket for the league semi final of 1990 between #Meath and Cork. With the help of the late and sadly missed Brian Smyth.

Meath-Cork was the ‘in’ rivalry in football at the time. Indeed, that period was a time when Meath football was at its most glorious under Sean Boylan. Before starting to attend games, while it was clear that our team were very good then, my only indepth knowledge of what was going on stemmed from Micheal O’Muircheartaigh’s radio commentaries and The Sunday Game programme at night. Firstly with the late Mick Dunne and then Michael Lyster.

The Meath-Dublin saga of 1991 prompted a lot of positive change in Gaelic football. Part of which maybe hasn’t been as heralded as it ought to have been – that which is now seen as the norm – games being shown live on television. Now, when life’s circumstances were different and getting to games was the norm rather than a treat, it wouldn’t have cost that much thought.

Yes, games were always ‘taped’ (remember them?) even though I was usually at them. But it was usually for later analysis, both as entertainment and from a research perspective for future writings. Where matters now reside, however, television coverage is now – to the onset of much regret – of paramount importance.

Meath’s efficiency at the time meant that many of their outings were televised. And even after being at the match, watching the highlights programme at night – usually with pint in hand – was an essential part of the match day experience. However, in recent times, personally it’s been a double whammy of disappointment, both in terms of not being able to be at games and – more so – RTE’s coverage being gone the way of much of what transpires on the pitches – painful viewing!

Policy now seems to be a case of ‘Play it again, Des’. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking no thanks, actually. Over the past year or so, the modus operandi of the evening show seems to be to show extended highlights of what has already been shown live in ‘real time’. Often on two different stations in the case of Ulster Championship fare.

Mind you, it’s not just lately, on mature recollection. There’s a vast swathe of GAA activity – from colleges to club championships to ladies football to camogie – that would get little or no exposure were it not for the excellent service provided in that regard by TG4. One might not be inclined to take protest at the aforementioned displeasure to the levels advocated by one friend and colleague in high profile employment but the feeling of being miffed is utterly understandable.

Obviously, of late, greatest angst centred on the paltry 180 seconds of footage allotted to the Meath-Louth game in which Dunboyne’s Cathal Finn made his championship debut – as did Cillian O’Sullivan in very impressive fashion – while Donal Lenihan also featured. Yet, both teams in that game, as well as the other contests which weren’t broadcast, were afforded pitiful airtime.

Personally, greatest disappointment was that it added to the pang of not being there. As bad as it was for Meath fans though, spare a thought for those in Westmeath and Tipperary. The league is by no means irrelevant but, strip away form therein and the former have been making incremental progress for some time under Tom Cribbin. For Tipperary, the coverage – or more aptly lack thereof – was even worse. Their conquest of Cork was heralded as the biggest shock of this year’s championship, or perhaps for many years.

Whether that stacks up or not is questionable. For one thing, Tipperary football has been on an upward trajectory for quite some time, and for another, it wouldn’t take Stephen Hawking to conclude that all is not well down by the Lee. Mention was afforded to same previously when their hurlers avoided relegation during the league in farcical circumstances. The implosion which befell the footballers against the Premier County has been threatening to happen for a long time.

Still, the big story here is – or at least should have been – Tipperary. Their progress, and other happenings unexpected such as Galway’s win over Mayo (not a major surprise to me either) are the sort of occurrences which restore a modicum of faith in an often entirely justifiably maligned competition structure.

The great pity is that with vast technological advances, there’s no identifiable reason why all games on a given weekend cannot be given equal coverage.


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