There’s just no getting away from the TV promos about the World Cup starting this weekend, is there? The ads are all over RTÉ.
We know, we know, the World Cup is coming, we’re the defending World Cup finalists (who knows if that’s even a phrase as we rarely get to use it) and this is most definitely worth the jamboree.
We’re being bombarded with wall-to-wall promos on our national broadcaster reminding us of those dramatic penalty shoot-outs four years ago to get us nicely in the mood. We’re just days away now and it’s all coming up, LIVE!
No, of course you haven’t seen those TV ads because they don’t exist.
Here’s where we’re actually at. An Ireland team stuns everyone by making it all the way to a World Cup final. They come home with silver medals and everyone wants a piece of them. There’s a big homecoming in Dublin. They’re studio guests with Ryan Tubridy on the opening night of the new season of The Late Late Show. They win all before them in awards season, including the public vote for RTÉ team of the year.
It’s four years later. They qualify for their second consecutive World Cup over eight months previously so this isn’t a last-minute qualification job.
But with just days to go until their World Cup opener this Saturday, we don’t know if our national broadcaster will show their games live on TV.
From World Cup finalists to the possibility of not even making it onto our screens in the World Cup four years later. And so it goes for the Ireland women’s hockey team.
Of course, we’ve never been in this position before. When the decision-makers in RTÉ presumably sat down months ago to decide whether it was worth showing the Women’s Hockey World Cup this summer maybe they underestimated the one criterion that has never had to be considered before when it came to discussions around a World Cup.
There might be conversations about the return of potential advertising revenue, ratings, the national interest.
But the point about being World Cup finalists in the previous World Cup being enough of a draw? That little chestnut of a consideration? Maybe it’s not in the manual.
When the Irish Independent contacted the RTÉ publicity department last week about coverage of the Women’s Hockey World Cup, the response we got last Wednesday was “we won’t be covering it as it clashes with the Women’s Euros which we are showing extensively”.
Look it, it’s great that we’ll get to see every game in. the Euros – which, unfortunately, the Republic of Ireland didn’t qualify for – but that tournament doesn’t start until Wednesday, July 6, while Ireland’s Hockey World Cup opener is this Saturday.
At least it’s a very low-key opener. It’s only against the defending World Cup champions, the No 1-ranked team in the world and the tournament co-hosts, the Netherlands, at a sold-out Wagener Stadium, Amsterdam.
All isn’t lost yet. It’s believed discussions about RTÉ’s coverage of Ireland’s games are ongoing.
When Ireland made the knock-out stage of the last World Cup in 2018, RTÉ broadcast those games live and the World Cup final had a peak viewership of 439,100, which was RTÉ’s highest viewing figure back then for a sporting event outside of GAA, rugby or soccer since Katie Taylor’s 2012 Olympic success.
Their dramatic Olympic qualifier was broadcast live on RTÉ in November 2019 as well as the European Championships last summer and their games at the Tokyo Olympics.
But here we are left hanging just days from a World Cup. There might be little expectation that Ireland can repeat what they achieved four years ago but that’s not the point.
Like the lack of live TV coverage of our most recent world champions, Lisa O’Rourke and Amy Broadhurst, in the World Boxing Championships in May, showing our top sportswomen competing on the world stage has to continually be a priority for our national broadcaster.
The Saturday Game Live is on RTÉ2 on Saturday evening. Over on RTÉ1 – while Ireland play the defending champions in a repeat of the 2018 World Cup final – an animated adventure called Smallfoot will be shown which is about a character who starts an epic journey from a village in the Himalayas hidden away from sight.
No need for the cheap analogies here.
But an Irish team playing in a World Cup after making the final four years ago should never be hidden from public view.