staying relevant | 

Pat Spillane: GAA TV debate has seen the unwelcome return of ‘Hurling Man’

Social media ensures non stories are attracting huge attention

The Clare v Limerick Munster SHC tie shown on GAAGO was switched to Saturday because of the Great Limerick run. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

6 May 2023; Liam Collins of Galway in action against Conor Shaw of Westmeath during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3 match between Westmeath and Galway at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar, Westmeath. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

5 May 2019; RTÉ Sport Brings You Closer to the 2019 GAA Championship with coverage across all platforms. 31 live games on television and online. Exclusive live radio coverage of all games. The Sunday Game celebrates 40 years on air. RTÉ Sport launched its comprehensive coverage of the 2019 GAA Championships on RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Sport. From New York to Croke Park in September RTÉ Sport will bring you closer to all the GAA Championship action this summer on TV, radio and online. The best in incisive analysis from a top team of panellists, a new Sunday Game Live presenter and a celebration of 40 years of The Sunday Game. Details include - 31 live games on RTÉ One, RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player. The Sunday Game’s 40 years celebrations. All live games also available on-demand on RTÉ Player, alongside additional clips & extras for each game. Exclusive national coverage of every match in both codes on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday Sport and Sunday Sport. Camogie quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player with Championship highlights on the Sunday Game. 60 live games across football and hurling on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. Across its digital platforms, RTÉ Sport will have coverage of every moment of the All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championships, with reporters at every game. Live updates on every score via and the RTÉ News Now app. RTÉ GAA’s unrivalled panels include Brid Stack, Oisin McConville, Tomás Ó Sé, Kevin McStay, Denise Masterson, Ciaran Whelan, Valerie Mulcahy, Brendan Cummins, John Mullane, Donal Óg Cusack, Brian Carroll, Anne Marie Hayes, Shane McGrath, Anthony Daly, Ursula Jacob, Jackie Tyrrell, Donal Óg Cusack, Henry Shefflin, Joe Brolly, Colm Cooper, Colm O’Rourke. Pictured is Donal Óg Cusack. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile © SPORTSFILE

6 May 2023; Liam Collins of Galway in action against Conor Shaw of Westmeath during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3 match between Westmeath and Galway at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar, Westmeath. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Pat Spilllane

AFTER I retired from the Sunday Game, a friend offered me a few tips on staying relevant.

I needed to stay in the news and keep stirring the pot. Most of all I had to be on social media.

Join Instagram, become a blogger and get labelled as an influencer which is where the real money is, I was told.

And do you need any qualification? Absolutely none, just plenty of neck.

Here’s a taster …

I can exclusively reveal this morning I have removed myself from contention to be the new host of the Late Late Show. Having reviewed all the options, I am no longer interested in the position.

I noticed a number of other high-profile personalities have made similar announcements in recent weeks.

The gas part is that, like me, they were never in contention in the first place.

Guess what? Social media lapped it all up. These non-stories generated a bucket load of publicity for those who decided that presenting the Late Late Show was not for them.

The Sunday Game has been accused in recent weeks of being dull and no longer relevant. So it came as no surprise when one pundit finally stuck his neck out and became relevant.

Step forward Donal Óg Cusack, who had a lash at RTE and the GAA for a) not putting more Munster hurling championship games on terrestrial TV, b) the lack of promotion by RTE sport of hurling, c) a favouritism towards Gaelic football and d) the over exposure of rugby on the station.

Interestingly Donal Óg said he has no issue with pay per view. He said it was ‘part of the landscape’ and had its role to play.

What’s surprised me was not Donal Óg’s rant but the fact he had a go at his employers, RTE. It was definitely a first. A case of biting the hand that feeds you.

I imagine he was the recipient of several angry phone calls from RTE since the show and could even have been summoned to a meeting in Montrose.

He can expect at least a slap on the wrist. From now on, he will be skating on thin ice.

Believe me, I know. I was once that soldier.

RTE and the GAA are the easy target to fire arrows at. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. However, the narrative has moved on since the Sunday Game.

The discussion is now about whether any GAA championship matches should be behind a pay wall.

Of course, once politicians and Liveline listeners get in on the act, any possibility of a reasoned debate goes out the window.

I agree with some of Donal Og’s arguments, particularly about the lost opportunities in terms of marketing by not showing the glamour matches free to air and the fact that the elderly are most disadvantaged in this GAAGO saga.

But my blood boils when politicians start talking about discriminating against the elderly. This is nothing more than a populist rant.

Overall, I believe the whole pay-per-view saga is much ado about nothing.

It is a re-hash of a debate we had had nine years ago when the GAA first put matches behind a paywall when they did a deal with Sky.

Hands up – I was very critical of the deal at the time.

But that bird has long flown and pay per view is now a reality. We even have club games behind pay walls. Most of us have got used to it.

The debate, however, has seen the re-emergence of ‘the great Hurling Man’, or ‘Hurling Snob’ as I call him, who wants us to believe that hurling is the greatest field game ever invented.

What’s worse is that the great Hurling Man (by the way I not talking about one individual, for there is a colony of them) belittles every other sport when arguing his case. This is nothing more than a cheap shot.

The Hurling Man fraternity ought to focus on their own game, which is dying in many counties.

Why not analyse why there are so many one-sided games in a supposedly graded championship?

Take your pick: Westmeath lost to Galway by 34 points in the Liam MacCarthy Cup, Laois beat Down by 31 points in the Joe McDonagh, Sligo were beaten by Derry by 20 points in the Christy Ring;, Wicklow had 24 points to spare over Louth in the Nicky Rackard and Monaghan beat Warwickshire by 26 in the Lory Meagher.

Instead we were treated to snide remarks about the one-sided Munster and Connacht football finals.

Of course, the outcomes were inevitable but the insults flung at GAA stalwarts in Clare and Sligo by fellow association members were way below the belt.

And here’s the thing – one in four TV viewers watched the Connacht final while one in three tuned into the Munster decider.

The best bit was the comments on the attendances in Castlebar and Limerick.

Can I just remind Hurling Man that fewer people attended the glamour Galway v Kilkenny Leinster hurling tie than paid into to either of the provincial football finals.

Spare us the mud-slinging. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Of course, once the band wagon starts rolling inconvenient facts are ignored.

The Clare v Limerick Munster hurling tie was originally scheduled to be free to air. But the game was switched to Saturday night in order to avoid a clash with the Great Limerick run.

Look, it was well flagged for months that some championship matches would be behind the paywall.

But there wasn’t a word of criticism from either Hurling Man or the politicians.

And here’s another fact: RTE was contractually obliged to show the Munster and Connacht football finals.

Nobody could argue that the GAAGO deal is not value for money. It cost €59 for 38 games before Christmas. It now costs €79.

Christ – that’s not exorbitant or an example of a Grab All Association.

What happened last weekend was a kneejerk reaction to a Cork v Tipperary match which turned into a classic in the last ten minutes.

The only way the GAA and RTE can put this story to bed is to tell us how much, if anything, the deal cost RTE in terms of paying an upfront fee for the matches they are showing on GAAGO.

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