As the days tick down to the planned resumption of inter-county action – it’s just eleven days now until we’re supposed to be facing Galway in the National League at Tuam (throw-on on the 18th is set for 2pm) – so the number of daily Covid-19 infections increases remorselessly. This is no game but if it’s viewed as a contest then it’s becoming ever more obvious which side is likely to prevail.
Indeed, had the Government gone with NPHET’s weekend advice then, with Level 5 restrictions in place, the jig would already be up. While that hasn’t happened, it’s already looking like a decision that’s been postponed and that, sooner or later, the games will have to stop.
But that probably won’t happen inside the next few weeks and so the match in Tuam is still more likely than not to go ahead. If it does, of course, it’ll be played behind closed doors and TG4 will be broadcasting it live.
In the event that the Championship does go ahead and is played to its conclusion, we’ll all be tuning in on TV and online to follow the action. RTÉ, TG4 and Sky are all going to be showing several matches live but, as was the case for club Championship games, some matches will also be streamed live.
Like remote working and the demise of physical money, streaming of GAA matches is set to be one of the permanent outcomes of this pandemic era. An accompanying radical reappraisal of the rights to broadcast and stream inter-county games live could well end up being added to that list too.
As this piece by John Fogarty in the Irish Examiner confirms, the GAA plans to use the streaming platform GAA Go – which it developed in partnership with RTÉ and which up until now has only been available to those based outside Ireland and the UK – to show a number of National League games. You’d have to imagine that they’ll do the same for the Championship.
Sky Sports, meanwhile, have announced that the 14 Championship matches they plan to show will be made available on a non-subscription basis on their Sky Sports Mix channel. Sky estimate that this move will make the games available to around 900,000 households via the Sky and Virgin Media platforms.
So the countdown to the start of the inter-county action continues, albeit in an increasingly unreal environment. The announcement today that several members of the Fermanagh playing panel have tested positive for Covid doesn’t augur well for how the inter-county season might go.
For now, though, it’s still all systems go, though that could obviously change. At this stage, to be honest, it would be a surprise if it didn’t.