THE FUTURE: A general view of the field during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 11, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Given his marketing background and love of American sports, GAA president Larry McCarthy must be aware what a vehicle as jaw-droppingly compelling as the NFL’s Redzone would do for Gaelic games.
This column’s interest in American football moves from passing during the conferences to something a little stronger in the post-Christmas play-offs. Redzone is a dream for anyone who wants all the gluten-laden, carb-loaded, sugar-saturated fun of the game without the mind-numbing midfield tactical plays for first downs and punts on third downs.
The conclusion of the ad-free, opening day Redzone’s early window of games on Sunday made for terrific TV. Two games were forced into overtime, Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints won their games with late field goals from over 50 yards, Philadelphia Eagles just about held off an 11th-hour rally from the Detroit Lions and rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson won it for the Washington Commanders with an outrageous touchdown catch.
Now, nobody in their right mind would expect the GAA or any of its media rights holders to emulate the vast resources that are required to put such a smorgasbord of a simulcast together. Besides, neither Gaelic football nor hurling have an equivalent of gridiron’s red zone, when a team moves into the area of the field between the 20-yard line and the goal-line.
And it’s not as if every weekend calls for such blanket coverage. Having said that, there are a growing number of dates in the GAA calendar that are crying out for simulcasts that allow the viewer to dip in and out of matches where there is something tangible on the line.
The conclusion of the Allianz Football League in late March has often been discussed as the best example for a GAA Redzone. With games in each division having to take place at the same time in the interests of fairness (there has been the rare exception), it’s an engrossingly manic day that will be even more so next season as the link between the competition and the Sam Maguire Cup strengthens.
With this year’s Tailteann Cup winners Westmeath guaranteed to be in the All-Ireland competition, there are 15 places available and at least seven will be filled based on league finishes. Dublin will be expected to streak away with Division 2 and Derry and Kildare will likely fight it out for the next promotion spot but for the remainder of the teams they know remaining in the division gives them a decent chance of playing Sam Maguire Cup football, whatever happens in the provincial championships.
The finale of the Super 16s, the group stages of the Sam Maguire Cup, in June next year has the potential to be just as thrilling. It has been claimed there will be dead rubbers but as GAA director of club, player and games administration Feargal McGill pointed out when it was voted in last February: “The possibility of games that have no meaning is miniscule in the Green proposal because each of the four places in a group will have meaning – first, straight to quarter-final, second, home preliminary quarter-final, third, qualifies for preliminary quarter-final, fourth, eliminated.”
Spread over two days, two groups concluding on a Saturday and the other two the following day, it could be TV gold if the goings-on at both games in each group are relayed in real time. As the Tailteann Cup is being run on a similar format, it too could generate animation as it comes to a knock-out crescendo.
And what about the feast of games of import that are only around the corner? To an extent, October had been county final month before the split season but we can officially christen it that now. At least 50 senior finals are scheduled to take place next month. A minimum of 13 are pencilled in for the weekend of October 9, a minimum of 11 for that of October 16, the same the following weekend and seven on the Halloween weekend.
Such clustering presents challenges for broadcasters but frenetically going around the grounds can be exciting. The lasting popularity of Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday and the rise of supporter updates on platforms such as YouTube only underlines the attraction of live sport even when it isn’t visible.
In fairness to TG4, they have been excellent in informing viewers of the permutations unfolding on the final days of the football and hurling group stages. RTÉ Radio One have also made their reporting as seamless as possible, one commentator at a county venue handing over to another elsewhere instead of going back to the studio. It generates a flow and a thrill.
It’s to them, not Twitter, where eyes and ears should be going on the GAA season’s days of mass reckoning. But more innovative thinking will be required if the organisation is to promote its wares in the best possible light.
Spillane should know Tallaght better.
The cornflakes were well and truly spat on Sunday morning reading Pat Spillane’s latest offering in the .
“It may be hard for rural readers to grasp, but Tallaght, just Tallaght alone, has a bigger population than Limerick City,” he wrote. No problem there as it has eclipsed Limerick in recent years but the next line projected the cereal. “I’ve never been there and until last weekend I don’t know if I ever spoke to anyone from Tallaght.”
Not to suggest the Kerry great is telling a porkie here but he might not have recalled the times he visited the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght when his son Pat was reaching All-Ireland schools finals with Pobailscoil Inbhear Scéine.
And maybe when he faced them in their Dublin colours and possibly had a drink or two with them in the 1980s he never asked Joe McNally, his brother Alan “Nipper”, Ciarán Walsh, Dave Carroll or David DeLappe (St Anne’s) or Paul Curran and Dave Foran (Thomas Davis) where exactly they came from.
Taking in Davis’ senior football championship game against St Jude’s, a team which features his son Pat and whose Templeogue base borders Tallaght, Spillane’s preconceptions about the area were dismissed. “An afternoon in the company of their support in O’Toole Park on the southside of Dublin made me ditch every stereotype I had about Tallaght and its people,” he continued. “Actually, this bunch of Thomas Davis players were no different than the players of Templenoe, Castletownbere or Spiddal.”
That really shouldn’t be news to Spillane. Three-in-a-row Dublin SFC winners between 1989 and ‘91, Davises returned to the final stage in 2019. While they are without a senior football title, St Judes are most certainly one of the most progressive clubs and Thomas Davis, boasting some of the best facilities in the county and backed by a flourishing membership, aren’t too far behind them.
Shining light on the lesser-known cups
It’s nine years since former Dublin senior hurling manager Humphrey Kelleher’s book was published. It’s a tome that has proven to be an excellent resource and is considered invaluable by the museum in Croke Park.
Partly inspired by it, TG4 have commissioned “Scéalta na gCorn”, a six-part series telling the stories behind Gaelic games’ silverware. Presented by Gráinne McElwain, the show begins tomorrow at 8.30pm with a visit to Dublin to detail the oldest known GAA trophy, the Silvermines Cup, which was first presented in 1886.
Named after men more associated with London but in Liam MacCarthy’s case born to a Ballygarvan father and Bruff mother and in Sam Maguire’s hailing from Dunmanway, the two most famous GAA cups are included.
However, the programmes are more of an opportunity to shed light on the lesser known “pieces of tin” as Jim Gavin might say. Among those mentioned are the Odlums Irish Purtiy Cup, the Shield of Heroes and former GAA director general Páraic Duffy also contributes to the show.
The series concludes in Cork where the tales of cups immortalising patriots such as John “Flyer” Nyhan and his association with the War of Independence and former Cork Lord Mayors Tomás Mac Curtáin and Terence McSweeney are the focus. McElwain also hears about the trophies christened after influential Cork women like Mary Quinn and a cup dubbed “Little Norah”.
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