independent

Thursday 2 October 2014

Keep your Sky, I'll stick with Lyster and the lads

Published 08/04/2014 | 05:34

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The Sunday Game

Lock up your children, batten down the hatches, and prepare for impact as Sky shoulders its way into the marketplace of the G.A.A.

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Gone is the 'minnow' challenge to the supremacy of R.T.E. by the Ballymount brigade of TV3 and now the much bigger and much more heavily-financed squad from Sky are coming to wrestle the T.V. ball from the arms of the national broadcaster and solo off into the pay per view distance.

Inches, nay metres, of column space have been filled on this subject over the past while since the somewhat shock announcement of the new deal.

Like most contentious subjects we seem to be a divided community on this one.

There's talk of 'selling out', 'taking the Queen's Shilling', 'betraying the grassroots', 'taking a major step towards professionalism within the sport' and sending us all on a hellish road to sporting doom and destruction (I just made up the last part but that's the impression you get from some quarters).

The other side of this pitched battle will argue that people in Australia can now watch games for free on Channel 7, that people in England will have a better opportunity to watch the games and for the popularity of said games to improve greatly.

They'll say that the new deal will attract many more fans and players to our national games and boost the coffers of the organisation which in turn should benefit the players and clubs.

But, there has been plenty of research carried out that shows that going down the pay per view road can have a very negative impact on viewing figures so it will be incredibly interesting to see how this all unfolds.

The one thought that strikes me though is that, for the very first time, G.A.A supporters, many of them having given freely and generously of their time and efforts to clubs all over the country, will now have to pay to watch a certain number of games. And that doesn't sit right with me.

I, like many others, have grown up hearing the mantra of the volunteers, the dying for the jersey, the pride in the club, the one family, the amateurism, etc., etc., and now we have pay per view where those same people will have to pay to watch games.

And I know it's only 14 games this year as well as the All-Ireland hurling and football semi-finals and finals, but do you seriously expect Sky to be happy to play second fiddle to R.T.E for too long?

I imagine for them this is their way in and like any bullish, demanding, loud guest, the G.A.A. could find it very hard to get them to leave if things don't work out too well.

But, they're here now and I for one am eagerly awaiting their announcement of their line-up, their presenters, commentators, and pundits.

I don't have Sky myself and don't intend on getting it any time soon but the neighbour might just see this writer's big head peering in his sitting room window come championship time this summer (purely for reasons of research you understand).

It's times like these though that you find yourself considering exactly what you have already and I have asked myself what it would be like if the R.T.E. coverage was no more or if they were relegated to insignificance by this new invader.

This year, Sky will broadcast the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in hurling and football along with R.T.E., and while the curious among us will sample Rupert Murdoch's All-Ireland package could we really do without our staple September G.A.A. diet on which we have all been reared on?

Allow me to expand on what we might lose.

MICHAEL LYSTER

Mr. Smooth himself, although the years are passing by fairly lively for the Galwegian.

Would All-Ireland final day be the same without this friendly uncle-type figure taking charge of his three rowdy house guests?

Could us G.A.A. fans survive without his dulcet tones? I'm not so sure.

Pat Spillane

The world needs whingers doesn't it? No, I don't think it does actually and while I enjoy watching the Kerry legend squirm in his seat and lament about the terrible standards of the modern game, the loss of Spillane might be just about bearable for us out here in Telly Land.

JOE BROLLY

The world needs renegades. The world needs mavericks who rally and fight against the wrongs and ills of the system. The world needs Brolly.

Love him or hate him he tends to make for compelling viewing and more often than not he makes valid points. His passion is undeniable and I for one would miss him if the world as we know it ends in the years to come.

COLM O'ROURKE

Ah, the lofty Meath man, a troubled-looking soul most of the time, he bears a worried look about him but a G.A.A. man to the core and his playing record speaks for itself.

He's a good presence to have in the middle of the other two characters and again, would be missed I believe.

DES CAHILL

The 'Sunday Game' on Sunday night, where would we be without it? And where would we be without the wholesomeness of Cahill, that beaming smile, the cherub-like presence on the big chair as he kindly guides his guests through the action from the weekend.

Des is like that popular guy in every club, always happy, always smiling, always delighted with his place in the world. God bless him and his happiness.

MARTY MORRISSEY

No, I refuse to imagine a world without Marty. No. Rupert can go take a run and jump for all I care; he's not taking Marty away from me.

GER CANNING

As much as I give out about him he's sort of like the Parish Priest isn't he? He's part of the furniture and Sunday afternoon would be a poorer place without him.

Yeah, I think we would be a sad bunch without these icons of G.A.A. coverage. When TV3 came onto the scene we imagined we'd be titillated and thrilled by a new breed of commentator and presenter but, aside from the excellent pundits, they didn't really win us over at all. Matt Cooper is an excellent current affairs journalist but, for me, he didn't capture the essence of the G.A.A. coverage. Or maybe I'm just brainwashed.

Anyway, as I say, Sky are here now. Our world has changed from what it once was. But, our world is always changing and we must adapt. And if I could offer Sky one piece of advice, just one, it's this - don't hire Hector. Please!

Gorey Guardian

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