Ruaidhri O’Connor is doing some quick math. The man responsible for crafting and creating the 2 minutes and 6 seconds of the Sky Sports GAA championship promo eventually ends at an estimation of ‘between 80 and 100 hours’ of work to produce a montage that has neck hairs standing to attention in anticipation of a campaign like no other.
O’Connor is an assistant producer with Sky Sports and works on a variety of broadcasts ranging from darts to American Football but GAA - not surprisingly for the brother of Mayo stars Cillian and Diarmuid - is his first love.
It came as no surprise then that he was the man entrusted in putting the package together to kick off the Sky Sports coverage of a surreal season last weekend.
The GAA Championships are back!😍 pic.twitter.com/lhBCSGMUMk— Sky Sports GAA (@SkySportsGAA) October 24, 2020
The starting point of the process began with inspiration from an unexpected source.
O’Connor explained “During the middle of lockdown I was given Imelda May’s spoken word album ‘Slip of the Tongue’. When I heard the track ‘Home’ I knew straight away that this would be the perfect soundtrack for a Championship promo.
“It’s funny but a lot of people have messaged me over the last week wondering if the piece was commissioned for us.
“You take that as a compliment as people feel the words and images work so well together.”
After receiving clearance from May’s management and publishing company, O’Connor began the long process of slicing and dicing shots and clips. It was a labour of love.
“The original track is 3 and a half minutes long so the first thing was to cut down and piece together the key lines that would tie in with the GAA theme. After that it was a case of trawling through our archives of all the matches Sky have shown.”
Much of this work was being done during evenings and spare times, a few minutes here, a few hours there and slowly but surely O’Connor had banked 15 minutes of footage.
And much of this was done remotely, working from his London home, on his computer instead of some state of the art editing suite at Sky HQ in Isleworth.
“Thankfully everything that is broadcast by Sky is banked and stored onto an online system so I was able to log in remotely and work from there.
“Another great thing about the system is that various clips are tagged - so for example I can search specifically for shots of fans, or goals, or slow motions.
“I’d have a pretty good memory of big moments in big games as well or recalling memorable scenes like a specific celebration. All of that feeds into the process and of course the great thing when undertaking a project like this is that you find some hidden gems along the way.”
The promo aired for the first time last Saturday. Surprisingly O’Connor only began the final edits at the start of the week. He explained: “Last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I sat down with an editor and started to weave all of that into 2 minutes or so. It was just like a giant jigsaw puzzle and we were matching the pictures up with what she was saying.
“It is about trying to encapsulate all that is good about the championship in two minutes.
“We sent it to Imelda and her manager and thankfully they loved it as well.”
The reaction has been incredibly positive, perhaps a mark of the hope and expectation that surrounds this year’s Championship against the background of Covid and uncertainty. O’Connor himself is unable to return home due to travel restrictions but ironically being based in London means that he is still playing football unlike thousands of club players back in Ireland.
“In the past I would have gone home to play with Ballintubber but since the lockdown I’ve hooked up with Fulham Irish here and we are through to the London SFC semi-finals next month.”
And it would almost be impolite not to ask - will this be the year for Mayo?
“I thought it might have been after the win over Galway but the loss on Sunday and relegation has dampened expectation. But maybe that might be no bad thing to dampen the hype and the expectation. There is a good blend with some new guys in. I am hoping they go well. A Connacht title is badly needed first and foremost. Dublin and Kerry look to be the teams to beat to win the All-Ireland. But we will keep the faith again.”