TV3’s GAA coverage began in confident fashion last night, with the start of its magazine programme Championship Throw-In (yes, they did, after all, deploy the hyphen) ahead of its first weekend of live Championship action this Sunday. I thought it was an impressive start last night and the programme looks set to become required viewing over the summer for GAA junkies.
It’s a chunky enough programme too – a full hour long – which meant that the coming weekend’s matches that were previewed were all given decent airtime. The prep that TV3 put in showed too, with Matt Cooper a well-scripted anchorman (he managed to keep a lid on that overly-chirpy persona he can sometimes adopt, which was obviously a relief) and with plenty of outside broadcast material, including a live interview with Jamsie O’Connor and an interview with Micko that had been recorded earlier in the evening.
There were also a few nice touches, such as showing the betting odds for the weekend’s games (regular readers will know that’s something I’m always interested in) and a vote-in thingy where you can text in to say which one of three clips you’d like to see in more detail on the Sunday programme. I’ll save my vote till the Dubs match in 2006 is on the shortlist.
There was also a refreshing lack of gimmickry, which was something that RTE’s most recent similar offering, Breaking Ball, was guilty of in spades. Instead, what was on offer was a no-bullshit preview and analysis programme, with sufficient depth and variety to keep your average GAA fan’s finger off the TV zapper for the full hour. I don’t think RTE have ever managed to provide this kind of pre-match coverage; they certainly haven’t come close to it since the demise of Sports Stadium all those years ago.
The one area where I thought TV3 got it wrong last night was their decision to keep their large panel of pundits in reserve. There was a piece alright, which was shot in Croke Park, where the sartorially snazzy lads gave their considered opinion on who is likely to win Sam this year (“Oh, Kerry! Kerry, I suppose! Yeah, Kerry! Sure, Kerry! It’s have be to be Kerry!” They won’t like that kind of talk down in the Kingdom where, of course, they’re not looking beyond the Clare match) but none of them were used in the studio discussions about the forthcoming action this Sunday. Instead, Laois’s former goalie Fergal Byron and some tousled-headed young fella from The Star did the honours. They were fine but it was, I think, an opportunity for the panel to start earning their corn and it would have been nice to hear Liam Hayes get the season off to a good start with some kind of wildly off-the-wall statement. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait for Sunday, I suppose.
TV3’s assured debut last night will be of more than passing interest to the GAA, what with the brouhaha that’s blown up over RTE’s decision to broadcast two Euro 2008 matches ahead of two Championship ones. RTE need to start minding their P&Qs in this new post-monopoly broadcasting world or else, like the BBC with that other kind of footie, they could find themselves with a load of redundant pundits on their hands.