Hurling and camogie

GAA can do more to promote Joe McDonagh Cup: former Waterford manager Derek McGrath

Antrim's Neil McManus and Kerry's Bryan Murphy and Dan Gugan in action in last weekend's Joe McDonagh Cup opener in Dunloy Picture: Seamus Loughran

FORMER Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath says the GAA needs to put more energy behind the promotion of the Joe McDonagh Cup and other lower tier hurling competitions.

With the condensed nature of the football and hurling Championships, McGrath believes the GAA should look at ‘streaming' the Joe McDonagh Cup games as well as mounting an “exaggerated marketing” campaign, and not to be demoralised by initial viewing figures.

RTE, Sky and BBCNI have been criticised from various quarters for their perceived ambivalence towards the lower hurling tiers, which mightn't bode well should a ‘B' Championship in football be introduced – one of President John Horan's mission statements upon assuming office.

But McGrath feels pressure may be brought to bear on the GAA and its broadcast partners to delve below the elite competitions.

“I think that's definitely getting traction… I feel there's a change coming… There is ‘streaming' of the Fitzgibbon Cup and I think that could be the catalyst for the ‘streaming' of the Joe McDonagh games. Fintan O'Connor [Kerry manager and Waterford selector under McGrath] made the point about the possibility of ‘streaming' the Joe McDonagh games.

“Coinciding with the ‘streaming' there has to be a more distinct, more exaggerated marketing campaign from the GAA so that it's pushed.

“It might be pushed one year and numbers are low and then it's not persevered with then. It's important that it's not reactive – just because there wasn't a huge audience for, say, the Antrim versus Kerry game…

“It needs persistence, innovation around the Joe McDonagh, new ideas, playing them before the All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals. There is a bit of innovation needed to ensure a marrying of ideas and I think then it would kick off.”

BBCNI screened a two-minute segment on Antrim's opening Joe McDonagh Cup win over Kerry in Dunloy last Saturday on-line and showed brief action from Tyrone's Nicky Rackard Cup group game against Mayo, as cameras were at Healy Park for the upcoming Tyrone v Derry Ulster Championship match.

It also emerged RTE had expressed interest in screening this season's Joe McDonagh Cup final ‘live' on June 30 - but it would have meant the game being played at 11.15 or 11.30am as a curtain-raiser to the Leinster SHC final, scheduled for 4pm, while the Munster SHC decider is the surprise 2pm TV slot on that day.

The early throw-in time was due to the fact the McDonagh Cup final would have to be played to a finish but it was deemed too early.

TG4 will now screen the McDonagh final at the same time as the Munster decider (2pm).

McGrath, though, feels there is a market for screening more lower tier hurling games.

“If you go the Railway Cup route of kind of saying: ‘Ach, it's served its purpose…' If you have that attitude, we're at nothing.

“I like the sounds of what's emanating from Ulster about the Joe McDonagh. There are passionate people in Antrim. I was in Sligo presenting the Lory Meagher Cup recently and I got a sense of the absolute passion they have – and that's not being patronising. I would equate the Lory Meagher celebrations to the celebrations of Limerick when they won the All-Ireland. There is absolutely no difference. It'll take time but it [promotion of the Joe McDonagh Cup] needs perseverance.”

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