Sport Soccer

Saturday 25 February 2017

Hoops do spring eternal for RTE

Eamonn Sweeney

Hurray for RTE. They've just announced that this year they will broadcast "the biggest number of live games by a single broadcaster in the history of the game . . . the action begins on Friday, 2 March as Drogheda United play host to title holders Shamrock Rovers at 7pm on RTE Two, with further upcoming live fixtures featuring Cork City, Bohemians and St Patrick's Athletic."

They do indeed feature Cork City, Bohemians and St Pat's. But mainly they feature Shamrock Rovers who'll be playing in four of RTE's first five TV matches. Last season's runners-up, bookies' second favourites for this year's title and two-in-a-row FAI Cup winners Sligo Rovers feature in none of those matches. Last year's third-placed team Derry City are similarly absent from the schedule.

No one else is in more than one televised game out of five. But Shamrock Rovers feature in four. When it comes to domestic soccer, RTE only have eyes for one team. Which makes a bit of a joke of the station's boasting about their record number of live games. Shamrock Rovers are an excellent club but they're not the be all and end all of the League of Ireland.

RTE's scheduling gives me the feeling that the European run and subsequent high profile enjoyed by the Hoops have made the boys in Montrose regard them as a kind of de facto national club team to be fawned upon in the same manner as Celtic used to be when the station covered Scottish football.

The first priority seems to be hitching a ride on the Tallaght bandwagon. All other clubs are being relegated to the status of a sideshow. It's almost as though Sligo Rovers and Derry City are the same as Shams' opposition in the Europa League: foreign teams who only register on the Donnybrook radar when they come to Tallaght. By doing this RTE are continuing a proud tradition of providing a dire service to fans of domestic soccer. The bias towards teams from the capital, evident in the way last year's FAI Cup final coverage degenerated into a Dublincentric bitching match, rears its head again.

The station might have covered Sligo's opening fixture against Shelbourne but apparently Tolka Park was unable to cope with the demands of the Outside Broadcast unit. Even so, it beggars belief that the station has seen fit to provide the champions with a series of 4-1 and 4-0 victories over their rivals.

Reports that Con Murphy will be presenting MNS in a Shams jersey are unconfirmed at the time of going to press.

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