John Caulfield, who’d seen his Cork City side come back from two down to beat Dundalk 4-2 in a cracking President’s Cup curtain-raiser at the weekend, had something he wanted to get off his chest.
“There was eight minutes of sport on the Nine O’Clock (RTÉ) news last Sunday,” he began.
“The first two and half minutes were about the GAA which is very good. There was half a minute on the Ladies GAA. That was three minutes. There was a minute and a bit on the ladies rugby. There was two and half minutes about the Premier League, three games. There was a four-second slide about the President’s Cup. And there was another minute and a half about the Winter Olympics.”
Putting away his metaphorical stopwatch, he went on: “We all have a responsibility to talk up our league. While 27 live games [on TV] is fantastic to have, our season is 36 league games plus lots of cup games. And while the Monday night show is really excellent and a lot of people here work in the national broadcaster, I think it’s important to try and talk to the people above them and try and promote our league more.
“Because we are a professional league, we do play in Europe and the more I go around different countries watching the standards and the facilities, the more I look at our own league and think it’s an incredible league.”
Con Murphy said Caulfield was definitely talking his language and the hearty round of applause which greeted his remarks suggested the bulk of the attendance was in agreement too. Nor was FAI director of competitions Fran Gavin inclined to take issue when asked about the manager’s comments afterwards.
“I absolutely take that on board, anything any of our top managers say, we’ve got to listen to them and act on that,” he said. “We speak to the people at the top, the broadcast guys, to get our league and our game into the headlines. It can be very frustrating but we’re working hard at them to get the space we deserve. Every sport thinks they deserve it and we really want the league to be up there.
“It’s not good enough to have a four-second slide up. I watched it myself and was very disappointed after what was a fantastic game. It had absolutely everything with two of our top teams. And looking at the stuff we see live on various sports channels, when you see what was there on Sunday, you wonder what it’s going to take to get it really up there.”
Later, Caulfield amplified his thoughts on the state of a league which, as it gets ready for the big kick-off on Friday, he feels is moving in the right direction on many levels but still deserving of greater exposure on the small screen.
“I think we are progressing on the pitch, crowds are improving and the written press have been phenomenal,” he said. “But I still think that with TV we just have not grown as much as we should have. In terms of live games I think we should have a game a week. That’s my bugbear — we should have a live game per week.”
And to maximise its reach, he proposes this weekly live game should be on a Thursday.
“On Friday night League of Ireland people are out supporting their own teams where we would all like to be watching Bohs versus Rovers on TV [this coming Friday]. I think that it should be going to a point that on every Thursday night we have a live League of Ireland game. I think this would enhance the viewing figures.
“My point about last Sunday night was that the first game of the season — President’s Cup or Charity Shield or whatever you want to call it — if that had been in England then there would have been two minutes of the game on the TV news. We get a four-second slide.
“We have got to stand up and say ‘there’s more to us than that’.”