Kilkenny great Eddie Brennan has come out in support of Michael Duignan on the controversial Sky Sports deal and claimed it is depriving club stalwarts of watching major games.
The pay-per-view channel has broadcast live coverage of each of Kilkenny’s three Championship games this summer including last Saturday’s epic All-Ireland qualifier loss to Waterford.
Pundit Duignan used his Sunday Game platform to criticise the GAA for not showing the Kilkenny-Waterford game, which was only decided after extra-time, on a free-to-air channel.
“My parents are at home, my father’s 83 years of age, a savage hurling man,” said Duignan. “Why should he have to go to the pub, he doesn’t go to the pub, to watch a match? They have enough money, there’s enough money in the GAA. How much money do you want? What about the people who support the game all of their lives, and they can’t watch it? I think it’s disgraceful.”
Fellow Sunday Game pundit Brennan said that he fully agrees with Duignan on the issue.
“I feel quite strongly on that as well and I am glad that Michael Duignan said it,” said Brennan, an eight-time All-Ireland winner. “I’ll make no bones about it, I have Sky Sports myself. I didn’t go to the match and I watched it on Sky but, for me, when you look at the situation overall, it’s disappointing.
“Are we on a slippery slope? When you look at the boxing and everything else that Sky Sports televise, are we going to lean towards pay-per-view? And, technically speaking, it already is because you are paying for the right to watch our national game.
“The point has to be that we often talk about grass-roots and growing the GAA and often talk about that side of things but if we are going to restrict people from watching our national sport, that’s an issue.
“Certainly, I can understand the different sides of the argument. My own personal view is that there are a lot of older people and that is a big thing, that they are not going to go to the pub, or their local, to watch a game.
“They are sitting at home and regardless of what county they are in, Sligo, Mayo, Tyrone, Cavan, anywhere, they want to watch the big games. Even in Kilkenny, and this might shock you, but if there is football on, we will watch it. It is just what you do on a weekend. If there is a match on, you will tune into it.
“I think it is more our senior citizens, the elderly in our community, who aren’t getting to watch this and they are probably the people for whom every GAA club in the country should be thankful because they have held the clubs through recession in the 80s and more recently.”
The Sky TV cameras captured a shoving incident involving long serving Kilkenny boss Brian Cody and match official Justin Heffernan during the ultra intense encounter.
Cody placed his hands on Heffernan, who intervened in a row between Cody and Waterford boss Derek McGrath, and pushed him backwards before retreating back himself.
It appeared to constitute minor physical interference with a match official, the infraction that All-Star Dublin footballer Diarmuid Connolly was found guilty of and which carries a 12-week ban.
Duignan’s take on the flashpoint was that it shouldn’t be pursued by disciplinary officials and while Brennan agreed he said he could understand why Dublin might be unhappy if Cody isn’t similarly punished.
“They probably would be, yeah,” said Brennan. “Something that I always bang on about on the Sunday Game is the consistency in application of the rules. And yes, I agree, if there is putting hands on an official, that has to be dealt with, without a doubt, and has to be taken on its merits.”
Brennan said his gut feeling though is that Cody didn’t do much wrong and that that the 11-time All-Ireland winning manager should be left in the clear.
“You can look at it from two perspectives, the technical black and white side of it, and then incident itself, what actually happened,” said Brennan.
“And I don’t think there was too much in it. I don’t think Derek McGrath is going to complain, nor is the official. It is different if Kilkenny are going forward into the All-Ireland quarter-finals but they are not, so it is not an issue.”
Brennan, who recently guided Kilkenny to Leinster U21 success, said he expects Cody to return for 2018 despite his earliest exit from a Championship campaign since taking over in late 1998.
“I don’t see the benefit of changing it. I don’t know of too many lads around Kilkenny who are looking to take that job so I think my opinion is that it’s probably important that Brian stays there because he knows what he has.
“I think his backroom team, particularly Mick Dempsey, they know the setup. They know what’s there and I’d say next year they can reset and go again and revitalise the team somewhat so, yeah, I fully expect Brian to be back there next year.”
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