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Can The Sunday Game Be Saved?

Time and time again this summer The Sunday Game has caused more controversy than the games they’re showing. If it’s not Fermanagh player Tomas Corrigan bemoaning his county’s coverage, its people being more interested in the sartorial decisions of the panellists than what they are saying. How can these shows be taken seriously? Can they be really saved? Here’s a couple of changes that could revitalise the franchise.

Blow up the Sunday night show

Not literally. No one can spare that much dynamite.

The Sunday night edition of The Sunday Game is not fit for purpose any more. It’s being asked to do things that it just wasn’t built to do. In those halcyon days before the qualifiers, the highlight show only had to deal with at most five games, at the very outside. By this stage of the year, it’d be down to two already. This allowed time for the kind of in depth coverage that people seem to want for every game. There just isn’t time on the weekends were multiple qualifier games are taking place.

How to solve it? One idea could be to separate the show, so to speak. Firstly, make the highlights show a separate entity from the Sunday afternoon live programme. Separate theme song, separate colour scheme, separate entity full spot.

(Note: this will never happen. The furore would be ridiculous. Remember when the theme song for The Sunday Game changed? Exactly. Now we have Twitter to make it a “better” discussion too. As Twitter always does.)

This will allow the night show to be itself and not have to mimic the tone of the flagship. On the Sunday night, have strict highlights with minimal commentary, something akin to the Match of the Day approach. Each game is covered equally and given equal comment.

This will probably lead to accusations of the programme being dumbed down and the death of tradition or some such, but it might be worth it if we get the second part of the equation.

On Monday night, have a more in depth analysis led programme taking a look at the biggest talking points of the day before. No ties, no suits, just experts chatting about and debating the issues of the day before. This could loosen out the analysis, and give pundits more time to consider the incidents and their points. Second Captains Live has shown that people are more than willing to engage with a relaxed, fun, sideways look at sport. Being on a Monday night will also allow for the contribution of journalists, bloggers, radio personalities etc. who are currently tied up at Sunday’s games or preparing copy for Monday to give an alternative perspective to that of the former player.

The timing could also free up analysts to give their true opinions as they wouldn’t be in fear of leading the news cycle on a Monday morning. RTE could utilise their outside broadcast unit at games on Sundays and send them around the country to different towns for the Monday night show. This could help combat the perspective down the country that RTE is a Dublin organisation that doesn’t care about the other 25 counties under their remit. The GAA could use this approach to the games to loosen up the image of the organisation and make it seem younger in a very competitive sporting landscape.

Change the football panellists.

Colm O’Rourke and Pat Spillane are 20+ years involved with RTE covering Gaelic Football, with Joe Brolly only serving slightly less times in the trenches. They’ve given excellent service to RTE and should be commended for that. You’d have to wonder how they could be expected to have fresh opinions at this stage.

These three have become so stale it’s astonishing. You know what Larry, Curly and Moe are going to say about an incident nearly before it happens. This is true in a way of all long term analysts. For years, you knew that if there was a defensive slip up, a goal scored at the near post or off a corner in the Premiership Alan Hansen was going to pounce on it. The difference is that he was more than willing to praise good defending and was also delighted to talk about good attacking, in his own dour, Scottish way. You knew that he was interested in what was happening on the pitch.

You can’t say the same about the lead RTE football analysts. In comparison to their hurling counterparts, O’Rourke, Spillane and Brolly offer no joy in what they watching. They’re in no way selling the product, from either RTE’s or the GAA’s point of view. You would have to think that empowering a group of younger analysts to really speak their mind could make for a show that is actually enjoyable. Right now, the analysis is either infuriating or teeth-grindingly boring.

Do people even want it changed really?

Despite all the moaning, do people really want The Sunday Game to change? It still rakes in huge viewing figures that don’t account for audiences north of the border. It’s still a major talking point the next day; people still want to see what the Three Stooges are going to grumble about. Until audiences show that they’re really fed up with them – by switching off – it’s unlikely that the shows will change.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.