GAA and Irish society illuminated by extraordinary local radio contributions

Turn up the radio to hear the beating heart of the GAA.

GAA and Irish society illuminated by extraordinary local radio contributions

Unless you have discovered a way of cloning yourself, attending more than one GAA venue at a time on a given afternoon is, obviously, nigh-on impossible, writes Peter McNamara.

Or, if I stand corrected and you have managed to defy all scientific theory known to man and have the capacity to be in multiple places at once, you might email me the details.

I’ve a feeling that could be a career-defining tale, somehow.

Nevertheless, one particularly satisfying means of transporting yourself around the country as games run concurrently has always been via local radio.

National media outlets such as RTÉ are synonymous with Gaelic games at inter-county level primarily, of course and also contribute hugely to the club scene.

Yet, the coverage produced by local radio stations the length and breadth of the land is beyond laudable. In fact, it’s extraordinary.

On Sunday, housebound while recovering from a nasty bout of flu (just flu for the record, not ‘man flu’, how ridiculous a term is that by the way?) commentators and analysts became my eyes at spots such as Quilty and Nowlan Park.

Residing on Leeside I have always been acutely aware of the wonderful efforts produced by both 96 & C103 FM and RedFM to cover the Cork club championships and the Leeside clubs that progress outside of the county bounds.

However, on this occasion I enjoyed the sounds of Clare FM and KCLR 96FM for the Kilmurry-Ibrickane-Dr Croke’s clash as well as the O’Loughlin Gaels-Ballyhale Shamrocks encounter.

And to complete the club championships bonanza TG4, of course, were live from Semple Stadium for what proved to be an underwhelming tussle between Thurles Sarsfields and Ballygunner.

And, as a Leesider, I had particular interests in the performances of Dr Croke’s and Thurles with a view to assessing how Cork representatives Carbery Rangers and Glen Rovers might fare in the Munster domain at senior level.

After all, both the Killarney outfit and Sarsfields were the favourites for provincial success even before all respective matches were underway on Sunday.

Some would argue there is no way you can learn as much about a team through the eyes of others as much as you would while attending or watching a game live yourself.

However, I gleaned as much information from the voices of Clare FM regarding Dr Croke’s provincial determination as I did watching Thurles Sars with my own eyes.

The little nuggets of detail you pick up listening to local radio can be both invaluable and humorous.

For instance, hearing about Kilmurry-Ibrickane’s personnel and mindset offered as great a perspective on Pat O’Shea’s men as it did the hosts themselves.

Kilmurry-Ibrickane were prepared diligently to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at their more storied adversaries. Yet, the Clare champions could barely lay a glove on Dr Croke’s, truth be told.

Words and phrases such as ‘ambush’ and ‘banana skin’ were exhaustively rolled out prior to this meeting of the sides. However, it spoke volumes of the Killarney-based unit’s mentality that they swatted aside Kilmurry-Ibrickane with such authority and vigour.

The pictures, however, that radio commentators can paint in your mind are every bit as illuminating as those on a TV screen.

In a day and age whereby the world’s population is understandably bombarded by the heights of technology, sometimes it’s almost therapeutic to appreciate the old school values that remain in society.

Old school values are a dying breed, after all so therefore, the few that do remain should be cherished.

And local radio stations covering local GAA teams and matches is as old school as it gets on this island.

6 February 2016; A general view of the radio commentary position ahead of the game. Allianz Football League, Division 2, Round 2, Cavan v Derry. Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE.
6 February 2016; A general view of the radio commentary position ahead of the game. Allianz Football League, Division 2, Round 2, Cavan v Derry. Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE.

The first time I became curious about live radio commentaries occurred when I was a young fella walking along a beach in Youghal following a Sunday afternoon spin from the city.

In as clichéd an image of Irish rural life as there could be, an old-timer to my left was sat on the wall mesmerised by the goings-on of a contest involving Toomevara in Thurles.

Why Toomevara’s troubles troubled an old-timer in Youghal on that day we’ll never know. Yet, there was a uniqueness surrounding that momentary experience that has lived with me ever since.

“And Toomevara, trailing by three points, a single puck, are on the attack again…,” said the commentator. Cliché central, so it was, before I probably even understood what clichés were but it was memorable nonetheless. It set off a spark too, an appreciation of the artistry that is live commentary.

And, have no doubt, there are countless others the same that enjoyed moments like it as youngsters.

I would proffer there is a significant percentage of people every bit as content, if not happier, listening to GAA games on the airwaves than they are watching them on TV, particularly in the more remote settings of the landscape.

And the craic is mighty too, particularly on the local airwaves.

The crew on KCLR 96FM mulling over the difficulties members of the 1967 All-Ireland-winning Kilkenny team had in arranging to meet up back in their day without the advantages of mobile phones was another testament to that.

The ’67 side were paraded before the throw-in at Nowlan Park much to the delight of the enormous attendance present.

Equally, as their pitchside reporter attempted to speak to Martin ‘Gorta’ Comerford after the final whistle the O’Loughlin Gaels’ man’s emotions decreed that was not an option for the rover with the mic.

Most people would have since seen that picture of ‘Gorta’ in tears. However, anybody listening to the live feed of the game would have had that image in their minds long before it was released by the cameramen.

And that’s one of the beauties of local radio, and national radio for that matter, the voices take you to these venues so you can live those moments.

As the world embraces more and more enhanced technological strains each day it’s refreshing the ‘wireless’, one of the oldest forms of technology, continues to play a pivotal role in Irish culture and life.

Obviously, one major plus of such technological advances is that emigrants can listen to their clubs’ encounters via the local stations online.

However, I hope, in decades to come, there will still be old-timers sitting on those beach walls transported to GAA venues of their choosing by the ‘wireless’.

And that some young’uns pass by getting tangled up in the momentary brilliance of witnessing those characters’ intrigue, head tilted towards the speakers, just as I did in Youghal that Sunday.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up