GAA faces Sky wars over new deal for TV rights
When the GAA formally confirms that Sky Sports are included in the new deal for 'live' coverage of championship games, the ambushes will become frequent and fierce.
They were conducted sporadically for the last three years, having originally been driven by RTE, which shamelessly dispensed with editorial objectivity when Sky were allocated 14 games for exclusive coverage in the 2014-'16 package.
That RTE had considerable self-interest in the deal appeared to count for nothing as news and current affairs programmes presented the new arrangement as a scandal.
The national broadcaster cleverly positioned itself as being on the side of the masses, merely wanting to bring the games to people who could not attend them.
The sham of that stance was demonstrated by their attitude to football and hurling between October and May when they showed no live games.
Away from RTE, opponents of the Sky deal ran a dogged campaign too, also using people who could not attend games to promote their argument.
The fact that more than half of all championship games weren't shown live by any station was ignored, just as there was no outcry following the reduction in televised games in previous deals.
An attempt to squeeze Sky out of the market by introducing a rule, stipulating that championship matches could only be shown on free-to-air channels, failed spectacularly at Congress last February.
If it had been passed, the GAA's negotiators would have been at the mercy of terrestrial channels in the latest round of negotiations, driving the price down by a sizeable amount.
Recognising that business reality, over 85 per cent of Congress delegates voted to leave the market open to all-comers.
Despite that overwhelming margin, the battle against Sky continued.
It left the sporting arena and headed for the political world, where four county councils - Kerry, Galway, Sligo and Mayo - recently backed calls for exclusive free-to-air coverage in the new deal.
Other county councils are understood to be planning similar moves in the coming weeks.
It's a futile gesture, of course, since the GAA's policy was settled so decisively only eight months ago.
Still, it will keep the issue on the agenda, providing opponents of the deal with Sky to call for Government intervention.
The All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals are already included on the list of designated sports which must be made available free-to-air.
The question now arises as to whether there will be a move to include other games in the 'protected' list in future.
The requirement for inclusion is based on whether an event has 'a special general resonance for the people of Ireland' and whether they are of distinct cultural importance.'
It doesn't take much of an imagination leap to argue that if All-Ireland finals rank so highly in Irish sporting life, the semi-finals - and even the quarter-finals - are also very significant.
One thing is certain. Those who opposed Sky's involvement with the GAA over the last three years will be horrified to learn that it's to continue.
They will step up their campaign and, with local politicians also becoming involved, it would be no surprise to see the Minister for Communications coming under pressure to extend the 'protected' list to include more Gaelic games fixtures.
Amid all the focus on which stations win the championship rights, the issue of whether the correct coverage model applies is being largely ignored.
Showing two games live every Sunday throughout the summer has been the norm for years but is it the best policy?
There has been a steady decrease in average attendances over the past seven seasons, with football dropping from 17,300 in 2009 to 13,146 per game this year.
Various issues have contributed - not least the reduction in the number of genuine title contenders - but extensive TV coverage may also be a factor.
No soccer games are shown live in Britain in the 3-5pm time slot on Saturdays throughout the league season on the basis that it might reduce attendances and also impact on participation numbers.
The GAA will not adopt a similar approach to Sunday afternoon for a variety of reasons - mostly to do with promotion of their games - but with attendances dropping they certainly could not afford to weaken the TV market by excluding the likes of Sky Sports.