Lar Corbett: Why hurling coverage is going in the wrong direction
More people need to be able to see the key matches
IT’S another Championship Sunday with little MacCarthy Cup action of note.
On the field, teams continue to drive improvement in standards.
Off the field, the scheduling, coverage and promotion of hurling is heading the other direction.
When will a new county win the MacCarthy Cup? When will a county step up from the Joe McDonagh and be competitive? It’s very hard to see in the near future, with the game marooned in the relatively few places it’s played.
Where it’s watched is a different matter. The whole country loves a ding-dong hurling match.
The gentle breeze of complaint about the lack of hurling coverage we talked about last Sunday has grown into a storm after the month-long GAAGO blockade of the best hurling matches.
The GAAGO/RTÉ response was to blame the number of games. Jacqui Hurley, Marty and company asked if there were a lot of factors involved. The one-sided football provincial finals? The compressed spilt season?
But there’s one factor involved. Money.
There was no clash the last few Saturdays as no matches were covered free-to-air. If RTÉ don’t have space, give them to TG4 or Virgin.
RTÉ Sport and GAAGO are commercial entities, tasked with increasing revenue. There’s no point blaming them for doing their jobs. They did what makes sense from their position: put the attractive hurling games on four consecutive Saturdays and make people pay for them.
Donal Óg is right: hurling is being sold down the river.
But it’s not about pay-per-view, Sky or GAAGO. It’s about a lack of resources in promoting and growing hurling past the isolated pockets where it’s strong.
Hurling is a hard game to learn and expensive to play. It needs backing. The payback is not in euros but in matches like Tipp-Clare, Limerick-Clare, Tipp-Cork and Clare-Waterford: four hurling matches on four weekends, all behind a paywall.
As with most things, the hope in Croke Park will be that this blows over. But people won’t forget, not when they can’t see the games they love. This is like water metres, the poll tax in England or the budget that put a tax on children’s shoes. People feel they’re being taken for granted.
A final word to the Banner folk: they may yet have a year to remember. Underage, their Minors won Munster, with the U-20s in the final. The Clare-Cork clash next Sunday is shaping up as a real battle of contenders.
Eoin Downey and Adam Hogan will likely be involved in that match, which is seven days out.
That being the case, they’ll not be allowed to play in tomorrow’s U-20 final. Probably the two best players in the Munster competition, unable to play the final.
Wake up, change the rule. The fixes here are simple: let the players play, and let us watch.
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