Whoever willed us to live in interesting times is punching in the winning lottery numbers.
Exciting times too though. Inking a three-year deal with Cork GAA to provide exclusive live streaming of hurling and football championship matches is, for the Irish Examiner, a statement of intent, a massive opportunity, and an important partnership.
In 2019, the Irish Examiner extended our coverage of sport into the live-streaming sphere.
That momentum reached a crescendo with our coverage of the inter-county Munster SHL last winter and fuelled our appetite to do more in 2020.
And then the pandemic halted everything. Well, almost everything. It didn’t diminish the grassroot grá for games. It actually fed it.
Folk began posting pictures of pitches, of goalposts, of corner flags and dressing rooms.
The voice bubble read ‘wishing you were here’.
There’s been tales of ‘thousands’ at challenge matches, and allowing for lockdown hyperbole, there’s little doubt that club championships across the country have seldom been so anticipated. Apocryphal or not, these well-attended ‘behind-closed-doors’ challenge games (usually when a club from another county visits) have been some appetiser.
We are delighted to be formalising an agreement with Cork GAA to provide dozens of live championship games over the coming months. The matches will, importantly, be across the grades in the newly-structured group format. Anyone with a passing knowledge of how the GAA club system works understands that the meatiest rivalries and encounters are often on the so-called undercard.
On Saturday, there’s an intriguing south-side Premier SFC derby between Douglas and Bishopstown (with Nemo Rangers also in this group).
The following Friday, the Premier SHC clash of serial challengers Sarsfields and Midleton will be brought to you by O’Connor and Ger Cunningham, with Saturday night’s clash of Blackrock and Erin’s Own being called by Des Curran and Mark Landers.
As an added bonus we've also been busy ensuring that all games on the opening weekend will be covered as part of a bumper 32-page Monday Sport section in print.
It’s fundamental to our future as an organisation that we provide the content our readers want – in the format they want it. Of course, it’s a tough ask. If I had a fiver for every text I’ve got this week wondering ‘What game ye streaming?’, the temptation to fund a study of media, consumer habits, and preferences would be considerable. Now there’s a head-wrecker.
How readers are consuming sport these days is vastly different to ten, five, even three years ago. The analytics underline the demographics and culture shifts, to employ language du jour. But there are certain constants, mercifully.
I saw a picture from Sportsfile during the week of two gentlemen sitting in the car, necks craned, following the action in a challenge game. Their interest was intense, their focus total – for a challenge! The necessity of a severely limited capacity is a fierce frustration but being able to watch live GAA again is a blessing of sorts.
Importantly from both the Irish Examiner’s and Cork GAA’s points of view, the coverage in 2020 will be free to view.
The games will be broadcast across the championship weekends – from Friday to Sunday – and we are accumulating and introducing to viewers an insightful team of analysts who’ve been there, done that. The talented Des Curran will be joining our commentary team led by Colm O’Connor.
There are other initiatives on the way from the Irish Examiner, further enhancing our match coverage and commentary and sports offering. This broadcast agreement with Cork GAA is a start – but a pretty exciting one all the same.