Offaly’s Brian Whelahan wary of GAA Sky deal
Offaly hurling manager worried GAA could be opening a ‘huge can of worms’
Offaly hurling manager Brian Whelahan says the Sky deal is a very brave step by the GAA. Photograph: Inpho
Offaly hurling manager Brian Whelahan fears the GAA’s new broadcasting rights deal with Sky has “the capability of opening up a huge can of worms,” although he also believes it will ensure his players are properly tuned-in for their championship opener against Kilkenny on Saturday, June 7th.
That game – set for Nowlan Park, with a 7pm start – will make history as the first GAA match to be broadcast live on Sky.
Under the latest package of GAA broadcasting rights, announced last month, Sky will show 14 matches exclusively on its pay-per-view sports channel this summer, while also securing non-exclusive rights to the All-Ireland hurling and football semi-finals and finals.
For Whelahan the presence of the Sky television cameras at Nowlan Park won’t necessarily be a distraction, although he feels it might present some extra challenges to his players, particularly in fulfilling pre-match interview obligations.
“It is a very brave step for the GAA to take, I think,” said Whelahan, when asked what he thought of the Sky deal. “Because it has the capability of opening up a huge can of worms, and I suppose in a few years’ time we’ll see if that bears any fruition.”
As a one of the founding members and former president of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), Whelahan was clearly hinting at the financial implications of the Sky deal – or was he?
“What I mean is that it could open a can of worms in a way that I don’t think we would have envisaged, from a player point of view, and everything else like that. Because it depends on where Sky take it after this current term. It’s from there, really, that where we could see it taking another turn.”
Whelahan is already preparing his players for an extra layer of media presence surrounding that opening game: “You just have to make them very aware of the occasion,” he said, “because obviously Sky are going to be looking for access to players.
“Everyone knows what Sky has brought to the Premiership, and any sporting event that they’ve ever covered. They promote it to the end, and it’s just adding to the whole occasion of going down to Nowlan Park, and playing Kilkenny. And in fairness to Sky, they do it very, very well.”
For Kilkenny selector Michael Dempsey – also speaking at yesterday’s Leinster championship launch at Farmleigh House – the Sky factor didn’t seem a big deal.
“Well we’ve a lot of sky in Nowlan Park already, because the roof is gone off the old stand,” he said with a smile. “But no, it doesn’t make any difference to us. It’s just something that happens on the side, really.
“I see pros and cons, but I wouldn’t have any major hang-ups about it . . . It’s really only next year or the year after that we’ll know the answer to that.”