Saturday 18 November 2017

Radio: It's goodbye to GAA and farewell to AA

Referee Maurice Deegan shows Jonny Cooper a black card in the All-Ireland SFC final replay Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Referee Maurice Deegan shows Jonny Cooper a black card in the All-Ireland SFC final replay Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The GAA's decision to remove live commentary rights from Newstalk seems a strange one, to say the least. The independent station has done a really fine job with their match coverage on Off the Ball (Sat-Sun 12 noon, Mon-Fri 7pm).

As is often the way with these things, the smaller, less affluent organisation - Newstalk - had to be, and was, more inventive, clever, daring and entertaining than its larger rival, RTÉ. It's been said before, I know, but RTÉ truly does suffer some of the typical failings of a bureaucracy. The sports programming is often exemplary, but can also be lazy, bloated and complacent.

And now they're basically the only option for English-language commentary (Raidió na Gaeltachta keeps Irish-language rights), which will hardly make them any less complacent. So there's two good reasons Newstalk should have retained some of these rights: they were excellent of themselves, and they offered an alternative to listeners, and thus a kick up the behind to RTÉ.

Now I'm not going to get all hysterical about this, as people often do about sports coverage. (You know the sort of thing: moaning and wailing because the soccer panel has been changed or whatever. It's just sport, folks, relax the head a bit.)

Also, I'm not a big fan of live commentary on radio anyway. I don't see the point, unless maybe you're working on an offshore oil-rig or something, and the satellite feed is down.

But I assume lots of people like it - otherwise why would it be broadcast? - and regardless, the decision still makes little sense. Also, it has another, possibly worse consequence: Off the Ball will presumably now have to fill the show's many hours with even more coverage of soccer and rugby.

The programme already has a one-hour soccer slot every single weeknight: a devotion to the Association game unrivalled, I'd imagine, even in England herself. They have regular live commentary from Premier League games (two, no less, this Sunday - that's three full hours in one afternoon.)

They have live rugby commentary sometimes, and Monday Night Rugby and Wednesday Night Rugby run seemingly year-round - does this game never shut down? And that's just for starters: all shows, all week, are peppered with lots more soccer and rugby. In fact, I've only just remembered the weekly League of Ireland section and John Giles chin-wag.

It's all far too much. (Especially the rugby stuff. At least people actually play soccer. And it's, you know, a good sport?)

Yes, I am "biased" - my sporting DNA would be mostly GAA, with a lil' bit of soccer, tennis, snooker and whatever you're having yourself - but still. This is Ireland, no? It's hardly unreasonable to expect that Irish radio shows would lean more towards - uh - Irish games and pastimes and so on.

And now, with this boneheaded decision by Croke Park, we'll have even less GAA on Newstalk. Thank God 2017 is a Lions year, though, right? Go on you Lions - do it for the pride of, like, the top half of the planet.

What would AA Gill have made of the infernal confection of horseshit and hyperbole that is a British Lions tour, I wonder? The superb journalist has died, and BBC Radio 4, in tribute, popped up a few clips of the Sunday Times man: a 2006 appearance on Desert Island Discs, and Five Minutes With… from 2012.

As an irredeemable egomaniac, may I pay him the highest compliment: AA Gill was the only journalist of whom I didn't think, "I could do it better." Nobody did it better. Listen back, but more importantly, re-read those wonderful columns.

Indo Review

Promoted Links

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment