In the age of prestige television, the GAA championship plays perfectly to the script.
The links are too clear and the parallels too obvious to ignore. For one thing, both championship and high-end TV drama involve multi-part narratives that link years together, developing sub-plots and twists and turns which may take half a decade to resolve are common to both.
So is the terminology: both games and episodes are confined to seasons, though this year’s season may be notably shorter than last year’s, for reasons which have nothing to do with content but everything to do with the availability of participants.
Those parallels run even deeper. A recurring theme in the analysis of modern prestige television, for instance, is the Lonely Man trope. The individual who carries the burden of the plot not just in a particular episode or story strand, but for an entire series: he’s troubled and pressured, gifted but alone, the single person on whom everything rests in order to progress.
No, not the referee in next weekend’s championship games, but the inter-county manager. The man who prowls the sideline, the focus of all eyes, the person whose every choice determines the course of the narrative for the foreseeable future. Walter White, Don Draper, and (insert the name of your own county manager here).
Another hallmark of the prestige show is its complexity. The references in episode four of season two only make sense when you make your way — exhausted — to episode six of season five. Sometimes those references aren’t even explained, but just left blowing in the breeze of the narrative rushing past, leaving you facing a conflict: rewind to make sense of it or follow the story?
This is good training for the GAA championship, when perceived slights and missed calls from earlier in the summer become evidence of a vendetta as the autumn looms on the horizon. Gathering your folder’s-worth of refereeing biases or pundit insults works in parallel with the hunt for tickets or offering lifts to games outside the province.
Then there’s the language. A key indicator that you’re watching serious, serious television drama is the freedom to curse, to drop f-bombs and more whenever and wherever you feel like it.
A few years ago there was some clutching of pearls when a TV sideline microphone picked up Davy Fitzgerald using some industrial language at a game in Semple Stadium. While all of us would like to think managers are channelling Oscar Wilde on the sideline when interacting with opponents and officials, it hardly shocks anyone that they’re more likely to be channelling David Milch (Deadwood) or David Chase (The Sopranos).
Or does it?
Finally, you probably expect some reference here to the preponderance of nudity and frankness about sex in the modern prestige show, and how that applies to the wholesome athletes of our national sports.
Three words. Copperface Jack’s. Or two words. But you know what I mean.