Brian Barry reacts to Sky Sports’ maiden broadcast of Gaelic Games.
The ‘Sky deal’ occupied much of the off-season debate amongst GAA fans around the country, and indeed the world. On Saturday evening all the talking stopped, as viewers tuned into Sky Sports 3 to witness the broadcaster’s first ever hurling match.
There may have been teething problems on Sky Sports News in the last few weeks, be it Jim White’s pronunciation of Connacht resembling a violent sneeze, or the Kilkenny and Offaly hurlers switching both codes and provinces for their first round opener. But when 6:30 swung round on Saturday evening, all eyes were fixed on television screens to witness the dawn of a new era for the GAA.
Eyebrows were collectively raised in every corner of the country during the introduction. This clip was not thrown together a mere few hours before the broadcast. The flashy effects on the clip were tasteful, as giant county crests loomed over the landscape. It may not seem a significant section of the programme in the larger scheme of things, but first impressions are important, and Sky Sports sent out a signal of intent.
Ollie Canning and Jamesie O’Connor were quizzed by Rachel Wyse and Brian Carney. They appeased first time viewers by subtly introducing the concept of Ireland’s national sport, while keeping the more seasoned viewers amongst us happy with an in-depth tactical analysis. It was a perfect blend.
To be perfectly honest, it was refreshing to see. While it featured many of the former TV3 crew, Sky brought an air of professionalism to the table, which enhanced the experience tenfold. Perhaps the emphasis on tactics in other sports on Sky may go a bit too far, but they hit the nail on the head here. The fancy monitors were not fully behaving for poor Jamesie, but things should improve. This can only improve a casual viewer’s understanding of the sport.
Before the game, Ollie Canning presented the concept of dragging all players back one line for the opposition’s puck-out. It is hardly a ground-breaking revelation considering it is employed by nearly every team around the country from intermediate level up. Nonetheless it is only the beginning. It was innovative to hear something different than banalities such as ‘the hungriest team will win it.’ If an additional tactic is exhibited each week, Sky hold the potential to bring hurling punditry to the next level.
Of course, it was not without its flaws. Brian Carney’s over-indulgence with hair products aside, the public was informed by commentator David McIntyre that they were witnessing a football game eight minutes into the action at Nowlan Park. Despite this early blip he paired up well with Nicky English to offer a detailed breakdown of the action.
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Over the coming weeks, many questions will be answered. How will the Sky Sports team fare with Gaelic Football? Will they succeed in capturing the imagination of the British audience? Will this benefit the GAA as a whole?
Sky Sports have shot out of the blocks. Tús maith, leath na hoibre. A good start is half the work.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.