Just three Ulster SFC ties set for live TV coverage
JUST two Ulster SFC games are likely to be shown live on free-to-air television once more this summer, despite Ulster Council's best efforts to find suitable windows for the games.
The Irish News understands that only the second semi-final on Saturday, June 8 – which could potentially see Tyrone meet Donegal – and the final on June 23 will be shown live by RTÉ.
A third tie, the derby clash between Cavan and Monaghan which takes place at 6pm on Saturday, May 18, is believed to be earmarked for live broadcast on Sky Sports.
The provincial body has nailed down its fixture programme for the summer and it's understood that a number of throw-in times were set specifically to allow for potential TV coverage.
The June 8 semi-final has been purposely set for 5pm so as to allow for live coverage. A later throw-in time would have created a clash with the Munster SHC tie between Cork and Waterford, which throws in at 7pm that evening.
While the schedules have not yet been confirmed by RTÉ, Sky Sports or BBC NI, they seem almost certain to follow suit from last year, when just two games were shown live in total.
The GAA's deal with broadcasters does not allow for two operators to show different games at the same time. With the calendar having been squeezed last year, and remaining in that shape in 2019, football was largely shut out in the early part of last year.
BBC NI can only show games live on TV when they're being simultaneously broadcast by RTÉ, although last year they received dispensation to stream games live online through their iPlayer.
They are likely to seek a similar deal this year, but there may only be opportunity for one live game.
The meeting of Fermanagh and Donegal in a repeat of last year's Ulster final at 2pm on Sunday, May 26 is the only game against which it's guaranteed there will be no other broadcast. No other game that day throws in earlier than 3pm, and TV is likely to plump for Galway and Wexford in the Leinster SHC at 4pm.
Fermanagh's game with Donegal will go ahead in Enniskillen despite a planned Orange Order parade in the town that day.
All the rest of the Ulster SFC ties clash with games in other provinces and it seems almost certain that one of RTÉ or Sky will choose to show the opposing games.
That means two of the big traditional derby fixtures in Ulster football are unlikely to be broadcast live.
Down's derby clash with Armagh at 4pm on May 19 is in a direct clash with the Munster SHC meeting of Limerick and Cork, a repeat of last year's epic All-Ireland semi-final.
Tyrone and Derry, which takes place on May 12 at 4pm, will go up against Cork v Tipperary in the Munster SHC at the same time. It's understood that neither of the Ulster SFC ties have been chosen by Sky or RTÉ.
Those games will instead be earmarked for deferred coverage, should the BBC choose to continue pursuing that line.
As part of their existing deal, which is with RTÉ rather than the GAA directly, in return for being allowed to show live games, the BBC bears the cost of broadcasting all Ulster SFC games – understood to be £40,000 per game – and gives its footage to RTÉ.
2019 Ulster SFC schedule
Sunday, May 12: Tyrone v Derry (Healy Park, 4pm)
Saturday, May 18: Cavan v Monaghan (Kingspan Breffni, 6pm, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday, May 19: Down v Armagh (Páirc Esler, 4pm)
Saturday, May 25: Antrim v Tyrone/Derry (TBC, 6pm)
Sunday, May 26: Fermanagh v Donegal (Brewster Park, 2pm)
Sunday, June 2: Cavan/Monaghan v Down/Armagh (TBC, 4pm)
Saturday, June 8: Antrim/Tyrone/Derry v Fermanagh/Donegal (TBC, 5pm, live on RTÉ)
Sunday, June 23: Ulster SFC final (Clones, 2pm, live on RTÉ)