Last Saturday 7 June marked Sky Sports’ first live GAA match, where Kilkenny ran riot against a Offaly team that looked out-classed in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Quarter Final at Nowlan Park.
With Rachel Wyse and Brian Carney on anchor duties, there was no real introduction to how the game is played, but rather an eager approach to analysing the game with their guest panel of Jamesie O’Connor and Ollie Canning. Their target market was to the seasoned GAA supporters – at home and abroad – and bringing that “Sky Sports” intensity to the game.
As the Sunday Independent‘s Dion Fanning stated: “Sky’s equipment was available but initially there seemed to be a reluctance to be too flash, so they rattled through the analysis without doing anything radically different.”
Although the reaction to the Sky Sports’ GAA deal was mixed, their first outing was a significant step above some of the other coverage we have witnessed before, which would make you think that the standard of GAA coverage can only improve under the new deal , rather than regress.
There may have been a few mistakes in the build up to the games on Sky Sports, but with the FIFA World Cup coming up in Brazil next week, you can bet that some of the player and location names will get a similar slip.
The Kilkenny vs Offaly match may not have been the end-to-end stuff that many hoped for, but the positive point for the fans is that the game actually got some coverage. But showing the game live isn’t the only thing that has changed with a new broadcaster in the mix.
More games shown live
In truth, the Kilkenny vs Offaly game was a strange starting point for Sky, as previous broadcasters probably wouldn’t have bothered to make the trip. But it did show Sky’s willingness to breakdown the barriers in order to bring the game to television.
If you look at this in contrast to a match in June of last year, Dublin played Kilkenny in a Leinster Senior Championship Semi-Final replay at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, a match that many looked forward to. However, neither RTÉ or TV3 broadcasted the match live on TV, but instead RTÉ streamed the match online only.
I wandered to some of my local Kilkenny City publicans that evening to watch the match, I did find one or two steaming through the website. But otherwise, it was nowhere to be found for those who couldn’t make the trip to Portlaoise that evening.
A different angle
Another example of the difference in a new secondary broadcaster this year is that Sky brought their own unique resources to the ground, compared to the limited ones that others might have. Sky changed the camera angle from one side of the pitch to the other with their own gantry, this showed a full capacity Ardan De Gras (New Stand) rather than a half empty Ardan Breathnach (Old Stand). A much welcomed visual improvement.
Sky also brought their own temporary studio to Nowlan Park, complete with their “Sky Pad” technology for analysis. Compared to TV3’s coverage of the All Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier in a sold-out Nowlan Park (24,000) last July. TV3’s facilities were a small square area for host Matt Cooper and panel at the side of the pitch, and the usual camera angle broadcasting a rarely full Ardan Breathnach (Old Stand).
Sky’s emphasis and slogan is “See GAA differently” and they certainly tried to show the difference in last weekend’s coverage. The strong stance that fans and Irish media have taken to their introduction into GAA seems to have been taken on board at the moment, as they don’t seem to be reinventing the wheel, but simply picking up the pace.
Overall, Sky Sports made their GAA debut with little or no error and may have won some new fans along the way if the Twitter reaction is anything to go by.