DONAL O'GRADY: April media blackout a disaster for promotion of hurling

Here we are at the end of the so-called ‘mí na gclub’. So how was it for the overall good of hurling?

It is accepted that the various forms of media play an important role in the ‘sporting battle’ for the hearts and minds of the youth. 

The feats of the players inspire interest in a particular sport and are the model for a youngster’s sporting efforts. 

Sometimes these feats are seen live, but more often than not, it is the media that introduce them to youngsters; via some form of media discussion, photographs in magazines or newspapers but particularly television. This is what sows the seed of early interest.

In their minds, young players ‘are’ that star as they seek to emulate the style of play or copy the skills or scoring feats of their sporting heroine or hero. 

They listen to the family sporting discussions and many of these discussions follow from articles in newspapers or debates and analysis on radio and television about particular games.

All of the sporting bodies recognise that promotion of their sport is made easier and more effective by being in the public eye as often as possible. The GAA games promotion unit in Croke Park is well aware of the power of the media when it comes to the promotion of hurling.

New formats were devised last year for this year’s hurling season. I wrote at the time of the announcements about my opposition to some areas of the proposed package.

One aspect of the package was the exclusive use of April for club activity. This was a herring of the deepest red, if ever there was one. It reminds me of the ban on intercounty training in November and December which came into operation a number of years ago, but which was never enforced.

Irish Examiner sports journalist Eoghan Cormican showed in a recent article that almost two-thirds of county boards had ignored April for championship games and that the counties who had scheduled championship games for that month had traditionally done so anyway. So one year in and one of the main aims of the changes put forward by the CCCC hasn’t happened.

Anthony Daly of this parish broadly welcomed the new package and expressed excitement that the championship games would bring a buzz and special atmosphere to Ennis, not seen for many years, for Clare’s big games. 

Daly stated that: “We needed to change, we shouldn’t be afraid of change and I welcome having a go at this. If it’s not working and we are not happy we can always revert back.”

This format isn’t up for review for three years but recently Anthony, in his capacity as the club manager of Kilmacud Crokes, put forward the opinion that it might need to be reviewed after this year.

Whether one agrees or not with the new structures, one major consequence is the lack of televised top level hurling in the month of April. There were complaints a number of years ago about the ‘handing over’ of the month of November to other sports, particularly rugby.

The CEO at the time, Páraic Duffy, stated that the inter-county season had ended and in reality that was that, but April has now been handed over and this has far more serious consequences for our national game.

Prior to this year, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Alliance Leagues took place during this month or early May. However, this year there is no top-level action being discussed in the national press, on radio stations or more importantly on television.

This is a huge concession to other sports as we head into the main hurling season and detrimental to hurling promotion. It is an area that requires a major rethink and one which the new CEO of the association, Tom Ryan, must look at immediately.

Most people down south were hoping for a Munster victory over Racing 92 and there was huge disappointment when they lost. But can you imagine the wall-to-all media coverage a Leinster v Munster final would have produced? It would have been a huge bonanza for promoting rugby amongst the youth.

Hurling needs all the help it can get. Essentially it is strong in only a dozen counties and struggles against Gaelic football in counties north of a line between Dublin and Galway. 

The football Super 8s later in the summer will guarantee huge coverage for football. 

Hurling’s semi-finals, which have produced some of the most compelling games in recent times, are being shoehorned into one weekend. This reduces the coverage of the game as the same media space which would accommodate two teams will now accommodate four.

These new structures were hurriedly put together. New CEO Tom Ryan could do worse than to form a new group to monitor these structures this year with a review of all the aspects early in October.


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