O’Connor seeks live streaming of McDonagh Cup games

Kerry hurling manager Fintan O’Connor

Kerry hurling manager Fintan O’Connor has urged GAA chiefs to introduce live streaming of Joe McDonagh Cup games so as to improve the competition’s profile.

There was widespread condemnation last summer over the lack of coverage afforded to the second-tier championship, with O’Connor calling on Croke Park to ensure the upcoming games are made easily accessible to the hurling public.

The opening four rounds of last year’s Joe McDonagh Cup were marked absent on RTÉ’s The Sunday Game, both in conversation and highlight clips. The final, meanwhile, was not shown live.

The Kerry boss believes the live streaming of games, which was such a success during the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups earlier this year, would be the perfect way to promote and market the competition.

“The coverage of the Fitzgibbon Cup this year was unreal. Something simple like that for this year’s Joe McDonagh Cup would bring about a massive improvement in the competition’s profile,” insisted O’Connor.

“Whoever came up with the decision to stream the Fitzgibbon, fair dues to them. They made a proper go of it. I was watching one game and Derek McGrath was co-commentating. They had Seamus Flanagan for another one. Even Munster schools football games were streamed this year.

A lot of Joe McDonagh games are scheduled for Saturday so they wouldn’t be competing with other GAA games. It would be nice of a Saturday afternoon or evening if people could flip open the laptop and watch a Joe McDonagh game. Hurling people want to watch hurling. They want to watch Shane Conway and want to watch Shane Dooley.

“The way things are at the moment, unless Offaly or Kerry get to the final, hurling people won’t get to see Shane Dooley or Shane Conway on television for the remainder of the year. You have Neil McManus in Antrim; Ross King, Cha Dwyer, and Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher in Laois. There are talented hurlers in each of the Joe McDonagh counties. They deserve to be seen and deserve to get a bit of credit.”

On the latter point, the Kerry boss, who is in his third season with the Kingdom, believes the Joe McDonagh Champion 15 recipients should be rewarded with a trip the same as those from the top tier.

“I said it to the GPA when I met them earlier in the year that they should look at the Joe McDonagh All-Stars going on a trip. Why have awards and not include them on the trip? I hope that is something they do down the line. It could make a difference between a young lad saying I want to stay playing at that level and him walking away.”

Where O’Connor does give credit is to those who brought this now five-team competition into existence in 2017. In terms of catering for the group of counties who are that bit off Liam MacCarthy level, the structure and format of the Joe McDonagh Cup satisfies their requirements.

“Last year, it was hugely competitive. If you said to me, pick a team you would like to play, I wouldn’t pick any of them because there is no team where you can say, I’d really fancy our chances against them. I’d say every manager is the same.

“If I had any gripe, it would be that Kerry is being treated differently to everyone else in terms of promotion. Besides that, the competition is brilliant for all the teams in it. The more coverage and profile the competition gets will make it even more competitive because the lads will know people are watching and paying attention to this.”

O’Connor hasn’t seen a massive amount of his players in recent weeks, what with the Kerry junior and intermediate football championships in full flow, as well as the senior club championship. With no club championship games played in Antrim, Laois, and Westmeath this month, preparation on the inter-county front would have been far more plentiful than was the case in Kerry.

It is not our players’ fault that we can’t go 100% during the month of April. The GAA has a fault in that the club month is very inconsistent; some counties play championship, others didn’t. They had to play football championship in Kerry this month because there are so many games to be got through.

“There should be consistency across the country. If there’s a round of championship played in one county, it should be the same in all counties. At least then the teams that we play will be in the same boat as us, whereas now they are not.”

Fionán Mackessy, Eric Leen, and Niall O’Mahony, all three of whom were part of the Kerry league panel which reached the Division 2A final, are spending the summer stateside and so will not be part of the county’s championship plans.

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