As expected, the new GAA fixtures plan hasn’t exactly received universal acclaim. Reading some of the reaction over the last few days, you’d have to wonder who the head honchos at HQ talk to when they’re coming up with some of their ‘innovative’ ideas.
The new plan means that all inter-county action will be finished by September, and thereafter club championships will take over. While this might be music to broadcasters like Eir Sport’s ears, it certainly hasn’t gone down well in other quarters.
Speaking of GAA coverage, Irish Times’ columnist Malachy Clerkin wrote this week that increased TV coverage throws a harsh spotlight on the lack of quality in the earlier rounds of county championships. Meanwhile, our own Seamus Duke reckons the GAA are missing a trick leaving September open to other sports.
Clerkin’s right about the harsh spotlight, and his point could be extended to certain inter-county games as well. Remember that some county players have the backing and resources to treat amateurism a little more professionally, as was evident during some of the Dublin and Kerry club action recently.
Generally, TV coverage of sport in this country has enjoyed a somewhat mixed reception. Supporters of the League of Ireland claim it drains attendances at grounds around the country while others would argue that getting to those grounds is not always possible and it’s nice to have the choice.
Here’s where our columnists’ fears converge. Increased TV coverage added to a lack of top class inter-county games after August means that broadcasters will increasingly end up covering local club action. This in turn may lead to a fall in supporters turning out in person, while also heaping pressure on club players.
Increased national TV coverage of sport at that level combined with the amplified pressure on guys who already give their all for the parish, is a highly volatile mix which could lead to bigger problems going forward. I just hope this new plan isn’t just one giant black card to those who play and watch the games for the reasons they were intended.