For eight junior and intermediate clubs it’s a landmark weekend in GAA headquarters. And for two Mayo entrepreneurs.
Fledgling broadcaster Local Streaming will beam the four club finals around the globe. They’ve girded the servers for 40,000 clicks.
Liam Horan, a GAA journalist with the Irish Examiner and RTÉ in a past life, commentates on matches for his club Ballinrobe. Anthony Moran filmed games for his club Aghamore. A mutual friend, former Mayo star and then Aghamore manager Jimmy Lyons, introduced them and Local Streaming was born, along with a plan to widen the audience for club GAA matches via the internet.
Breaffy and Aghamore were early adopters and Hollymount-Carramore hired Local Streaming to broadcast their 2015 Mayo intermediate final win over The Neale. Demand was instant, home and abroad, and potential obvious. The duo have since streamed scores of games live and moved beyond Mayo borders into Galway, Kildare, Clare, Cavan, and Offaly.
Clubs cover the cost of a broadcast, typically with the help of local sponsors, and Horan and Moran recruit a co-commentator from each of the teams involved to put skin in the game. Horan commentates and referees.
Last October, they streamed the Mayo senior and intermediate football finals, drawing more than 13,000 viewers from 48 countries.
“We get messages from everywhere, Europe, America, Africa. We encourage viewers to send us photos, letting us know where they are watching. For one of the games we’ve done, a lad in Abu Dhabi sent us a picture of a nine or ten of them watching around a computer. Only two of them had ever seen a Gaelic football match before, so the gospel is being spread too.
“But generally, the ability to gather somewhere and watch the game means so much to Irish people abroad. People are so surprised to be able to watch the game they want to let the world know they are watching.”
Still, 80% of the audience is at home. The committed GAA fan will watch GAA wherever it can be found.
“There is great interest out there in seeing county players in their club habitat, even players from another county. The likes of Lee Keegan, starring in a midfield role for Westport, rather than the job we see him doing for Mayo.”
The enterprise stepped up a level with permission to screen the intermediate club semi-finals. Though that brought its own difficulties — 25,000 viewers melted a few tubes. “There was a massive spike of traffic that brought down the site, which was unfortunate, and some people missed the game or went back to local radio. But it was still available on YouTube and we reacted with an immediate social media and text campaign to send people to the right place. So we had few enough complaints.
“We offered sincere apologies. I think people were very understanding that it’s a new operation. And we’re very confident everything is in place for this weekend.”
The position with rights? “You seek permission each time. We apply to broadcast games and the governing body has the right to grant or refuse permission. TG4 hold the rights to county senior finals.”
They’ve had viral sensations. Richie Power consoling the Celbridge team after Carrickshock’s Leinster final smash and grab. Darren Coen landing a missile from the corner flag for Hollymount-Carramore. Aghamore U21s’ mannequin challenge.
And they’ve turned up talent with the mic.
“Bringing the club guys in for co-commentary brings a new dimension and great knowledge, and great colour to it. We like to have a bit of a fun. We’re not trying to be the poor man’s Sunday Game. We want to put our own stamp on it.”
However, they do want to broaden that base.
“As far as we’re aware there is no woman doing lead match commentary and we’re working on that. We’ve spoken to women who we know have the talent and we’re trying to get them the experience.”
Now the backing of competition sponsors AIB has brought them to HQ.
“The main challenge is going to our biggest ever audience. We’re expecting around 40,000 viewers this weekend.
“More and more people will see what you do and see what they think of it.
“So far, people understand we’re a one-camera operation. At the moment, you could say, our slogan is ‘one camera, one club’. That may change in time. But the market we’re in, we have to keep our costs tight or we’ll price ourselves out.
“We’ll be broadcasting from higher up. Level 7. That’ll bring challenges. But there are great facilities in Croke Park. And Anthony has already done a site visit.”
“It’s a big moment for us to be in Croker.”
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