The Sky is the limit for this new GAA deal apparently, or is it?
THE BIG news this week was the announcement by the GAA of their new arrangement with Sky Sports to broadcast Gaelic games not only in Ireland but across the globe.
This means that for the first time ever in Ireland Gaelic games will be on a pay to view channel. The new contract gives Sky exclusive rights to 14 live games which will include two football quarter-finals. All semifinals and finals for the next three years will be aired by Sky but can also be seen on good old RTE.
The initial contract with SkyY is for three years but let's not fool ourselves, Sky are here to stay and in three years time I suspect there will be serious competition with RTE and Sky for greater rights and I foresee only one winner.
I am an overall sports enthusiast and enjoy watching many sports on Sky such as soccer, golf and rugby and even cricket especially T20 and highlights of test matches. Sky are now the masters in the production of these sports and do so at an extremely high and professional standard.
I've no doubt that their coverage of Gaelic games will also be top rate. There has been substantial disquiet about the new deal from many disgruntled GAA followers who may not have Sky and will now be precluded from watching these pay for view games.
Surprisingly only 20% of homes in Ireland currently have Sky Sports and to sign up for such a package to solely watch these 14 games will cost in the region of €32 per game.
Many elderly GAA fans don't have Sky and up to now had no need for it. Also, there are many parents of young GAA followers who cannot afford Sky. For many reasons both of these groups are not always in a position to attend live games.
The GAA have recently been anxious to distance itself from the drinks industry and how ironic it will be if this new deal forces people into pubs to watch our games.
The new deal will definitely improve the coverage of Gaelic games for the Irish Diaspora across the world especially in Britain.
For commercial and promotional reasons the GAA are extremely anxious to explore new markets, some may say that this is at the expense of the game here in Ireland. However, this deal is all about money and don't be fooled into believing anything else.
I said in a recent column that the onset of professionalism in the GAA is gathering serious momentum and this new deal will, I feel, greatly enhance this.
It will be interesting to see the details of the Sky deal and the amount that will be distributed back to the grassroots, i.e. the local clubs.
Will this deal enable the GAA to reduce ticket prices or at least maintain them for the considerable future?
I was surprised to see that the Gaelic Players Association had no involvement in drawing up this new deal.
Surely the players, as the main stakeholders in the organisation, should have had an input.
It is the players after all that will have to give up their time for interviews and have their games analysed to a serious level and surely they should be compensated for this.
I have never seen an issue in the GAA being so publicly debated and criticised. The opening up of Croke Park to soccer and rugby didn't generate such a stir.
If the funds generated improve player welfare and facilities I would endorse the new deal. I would be hopeful that the coverage given to the lower divisions (which is currently disgraceful) will improve and in fairness to Sky they do cover competitions at the lower end of the scale.
I also acknowledge the huge disappointment that many may feel if they are not in a position to access Sky.
Huge congratulations to Casey O'Brien, his backroom team and all the panel on winning the Division 2B Hurling League final last Saturday.
This victory guarantees a quick return back to Division 2A where this Wicklow team belongs.
Wicklow started both halves in a whirlwind fashion and these early scoring blitzes settled the team and sent them on the road to victory.
Wayne O'Gorman's four excellent points from play and Danny Staunton's three points were scores of a very high standard and worthy of any match.
Mikey Lee continued his excellent scoring return and finished with a notable 10 points.
This win will give the team great confidence as they prepare for another assault on the Christy Ring Cup.
What a breathtaking end to the footballers' last league game against Tipperary on Sunday.
Unfortunately it was all in vain as Clare recorded the necessary victory over Antrim to guarantee their promotion.
The team can now prepare wholeheartedly for their next challenge against Laois in the Championship and on the bright side, another year in Division 4 may well give the management an opportunity to promote some of the younger members of the panel to starting roles.