Eircom hone in on All-Ireland

EIRCOM are understood to have had advanced talks with the GAA about replacing Vodafone as associate sponsors of the All-Ireland senior football championship.

It was reported late last year that the telecommunications company were interested in joining the Association’s stable of championship backers.

However, it is believed Eircom have since tabled a bid to come on board as one of the three SFC sponsors alongside continuing patrons Super Valu and Ulster Bank.

The GAA last night confirmed Eircom “were one of a number of interested parties they have had held talks with but there had been no developments”.

Last November, an Eircom source acknowledged their interest in filling the void left by rivals Vodafone.

“We are reviewing our options on sponsorship in general and we have met with the GAA a couple to times,” a company spokesman said.

Eircom last year ended their 11-year association with the Football Association of Ireland and were replaced by 3.

Meanwhile, there is still the possibility Guinness’ associate sponsorship of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship could be brought to an end after this season.

In a bid to make their showpiece competitions more attractive, the GAA are considering offering prospective sponsors a three-part bundle including the two under-age championships, the under-21 and minor competitions.

Were the minor championship to be included, Guinness — whose association with the SHC goes back to 1995 — would surely suffer as the GAA would not be in a position to accept an alcoholic beverage company as for under-age competitions.

Last September, GAA commercial director Dermot Power confirmed they wanted to give sponsors “added value across broth games. It’s early days yet but we’re looking to give value to everybody.”

Meanwhile, former Mayo manager and Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony, says that the GAA Players Grant Scheme won’t be cut if his party leads the next Government.

O’Mahony, Fine Gael’s sports spokesman, is current finalising the party’s sporting policies for the General election along with party colleague and Kerry football legend, Jimmy Deenihan.

“I don’t think the Players Grants Scheme should be a casualty of the recession,” says O’Mahony.

“It has already been cut and in the wider picture it’s a fairly miniscule outlay. You’re talking about €400 for players at the lower end of the scale.

“No-one can accuse the players of not taking their hit because it was pared back 70% last year, and in fairness to the GPA they understood that situation.

“I still think the principle of the GAA players grants is very important. When you consider what intercounty players give back to the country, then they’re very good value for money.

“The GPA and the GAA have shown too that every euro spent on sport generates an amount of money for the economy.

“You only have to walk through Thurles on Munster Final Day or visit any other GAA ground on a big match day to see that vividly illustrated.”

O’Mahony also believes that the revenue-making ability of the GAA could be put to even greater use, by selling our national games as a unique part of our culture to visiting tourists.

“We haven’t used the marketing tools at our disposal to sell the GAA as a hugely unique tourist attraction,” says O’Mahony.

“People from outside the country simply aren’t aware of our great native sports. There was a story recently of how American soldiers have set up a number of hurling teams purely on the strength of seeing a match on television while they were stopping over in Shannon airport, which just goes to show how much our sports could capture the imagination if they were exposed to a wider audience.

“There are matches up and down the country every Sunday in stadiums that aren’t packed to capacity, and I think it would be a great idea to transport tourists to these matches for next to nothing just to give them the experience of Gaelic Games.

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