Television doing a superb job shining spotlight on G.A.A.

On the Line with Alan Aherne

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

The late January and early February period can be difficult to categorise, a point I already alluded to in the book review contained elsewhere on these pages last week.

Christmas is so far back in the rearview mirror that it seems like a lifetime ago, whereas it's still too early to be truly anticipating what the summer months may bring.

Yet, with every passing week the collective mood tends to lift, and those extra few minutes of brightness in the evenings remind us that winter has already been and gone.

In a G.A.A. context, there's no doubt that the hectic schedule of games staged on the first weekend of February awoke everyone from their slumber.

Wasn't it fantastic to see a crowd in excess of 16,000 attending the Allianz League opener between Cavan and Dublin in Kingspan Breffni Park for example?

The doom merchants will always have reasons to outline why they believe the national games are in trouble, and I think we would all readily agree that they're not perfect, far from it in fact.

However, that attraction of seeing the best players in a competitive environment remains as strong as ever.

I'm in full agreement with the marketing catch cry of 'nothing beats being there', and I would find it very difficult to spend a weekend without attending at least one match of some description.

However, it's now possible to witness more games than ever before on television, and for that we should be very grateful.

Of course, I accept that not everybody is in a position to benefit from the pay-per-view channels, but those who are have been spoiled for choice already.

Saturday week was a prime example. I arrived home from covering a schools match in Kilkenny in time to settle down and watch Ballyea and St. Thomas giving it everything in pursuit of an All-Ireland Club hurling final place on TG4.

Then I had the choice of deciding which of the three Allianz Football League games being screened live at 7 p.m. by eir Sport that I wanted to view.

I opted for Louth versus Laois, knowing that Monaghan against Mayo and the all-Ulster clash of Fermanagh and Down were also being shown in their entirety on the same channel later that night.

I managed to successfully avoid social media, radio and any conversations relating to the games, meaning that I wasn't aware of the outcome of either tie as I sat through them later.

It was the early hours before the action concluded, and I had managed to watch four full games from 5 p.m. onwards. 'What a fantastic service,' I thought to myself as I finally turned off the television, knowing that there was more to come the next day.

It was back to TG4 for their Allianz League coverage, with that Dublin versus Cavan game live followed by a deferred showing of Kerry against Donegal.

My own work dictates that I can't watch any Sunday afternoon action at the time, and of course I couldn't avoid knowing the results before getting a chance to look at those games midweek.

Still, it was great to have the opportunity, and last weekend was no different. First the two All-Ireland Club football semi-finals were stored on Sky Plus to look at another time, and then there was a feast of Allianz League action from Saturday evening onwards: Tipperary versus Dublin and Cork against Clare in hurling, along with Dublin versus Tyrone and Kerry against Mayo in football.

Last Sunday's TG4 fare was the hurling derby between Kilkenny and Waterford, plus the football meeting of Roscommon and Donegal.

The crowds at these games highlight the fact that members of the general public are crying out for some real action after the shadow boxing in the January tournament outings.

I know that it was announced recently that championship attendances are down, but perhaps that has more to do with the inevitability of certain outcomes. At least in the league the teams are graded on merit and are in their respective divisions for a reason. That in turn enhances the likelihood of close games, and the public are responding by surging through the turnstiles.

Wexford People