Sky’s still not the limit when it comes to GAA

The Sky Sports GAA team
The Sky Sports GAA team

There’s still something slightly unsettling about watching GAA on Sky Sports.

Nothing wrong with the camera angles or even the commentary most of the time, and the guests are household names from the worlds of hurling and football – but it’s still a little like drinking Heineken when your brother works for Guinness.

RTÉ has been the home of the GAA from a television standpoint ever since the channel came on air – and even then it was just adding pictures to the voice of Micheal O’Hehir who’d already been in situ since the dawning of time.

And as TV3 found out in the past, it’s hard for viewers to get out of the habit – although if anyone can do it, Sky can. But they’re not there yet.

For a start, it’s hard to take anchorwoman Rachel Wyse seriously; not for the sexist reasons expounded by Joe Brolly, but simply because her depth of GAA knowledge seems puddle-deep. And were someone to remove her statistics, she’d be left without a crutch to traverse what is already a difficult half-time break for her.

Former rugby league star Brian Carney is a little better, but not much.There are times it would make you pine for Darragh Moloney – and that’s saying something.

The studio analysts have all of the big game experience you’d ever require from a panel – Jamesie O’Connor, Peter Canavan, Paul Earley, Nicky English and our own Ollie Canning know their stuff by any yardstick.

But some of them are more pre-occupied with getting a go on the big screen – with its little rings to show where players are standing and its bolts of blue from the sky or snail-like blue lines to illustrate another mazy run.

It’s all a little forced and stilted, mainly because the presenters lack any real passion for what is unfolding in front of them – and then there’s the occasional commentator who is simply trying too hard.

Dublin’s Senan Connell, for example, endured a sort of Phil Neville meltdown on social media over his attempts at analysis in Cork’s recent qualifier win over Sligo. Neville was rounded on because he was sleep-inducing during his own outing at the World Cup for the BBC, but Connell’s problem was that he seemed to have only one word to sum up good play.

“Quality” was his word of choice, and it became so repetitive that there were suggestions it should be turned into a drinking game – except that if you took a slug for every ‘quality’ quip, you’d be unable to remember your own name by half-time.

Nicky English was a great hurler, but he could as easily have been a curate giving out long sermons; he just doesn’t capture the passion of the game he knows so well, no matter how he tries. In many ways, Sky’s coverage has worked in RTÉ’s favour because it’s shown how good some of its contributors are.

You won’t beat Marty Morrissey for colour and drama; Ger Canning has the calmness and authority that a lifetime of experience brings; and while Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly can be utterly infuriating, nobody could ever accuse them of sitting on the fence.

Cyril Farrell and Michael Duignan read a game, and spot the trends almost before something happens – it’s all so seamless and familiar, and that’s what Sky is up against.