Munster CEO defends broadcast coverage of province’s hurling championship

Controversy arose because matches shown on GAAGO, the GAA and RTÉ's streaming service, included one of the season’s most notable fixtures

Munster GAA chief executive Kieran Leddy has defended the television coverage of the province’s hurling championship in 2023.

Controversy arose because the matches shown on GAAGO, the streaming service run by the GAA and RTÉ, included one of the season’s biggest fixtures, Clare’s win over All-Ireland champions Limerick – the latter’s first championship defeat in four years.

In his annual address to Friday evening’s Munster GAA Convention, Leddy outlines the circumstances of that event and stands over the number of matches available free-to-air.

He pointed out that both that fixture and Cork v Tipperary, which was also exclusively available on GAAGO, were supposed to be played on Sundays, which would have made them available for terrestrial broadcast.


“The Clare versus Limerick game was held on a Saturday due to the Great Limerick Run taking place in the city on the Sunday, while the Cork v Tipperary game took place on a Saturday because the Munster senior football final was fixed for the Sunday of that weekend.

“Regarding the Munster senior hurling championship, it is also worth noting that normally, 10 of the 11 . . . games can be televised as the two last round games are played at the same time on the same day. In 2023, six of the 10 games that could be televised were covered free-to-air by RTÉ.”

Reminding his audience that 85 per cent of the total broadcasts were free-to-air, the CEO said that the media rights deal had to cover more than the Munster hurling championship.

“There are five other provincial championships taking place at the same time and supporters in those counties have an expectation that some of those games will be on RTÉ too.

“We have come from a position over the last few decades of few games played and few games televised to a huge number of games played and televised nowadays. Secondly, in a global sporting context, the GAA is a very small sporting fish in a very big, globalised sporting sea. There are no international competitions, World Cups etc, and therefore, no opportunity to engage in a TV rights bidding process with multiple free-to-air TV stations.

“The association must generate a huge level of funding to continue to operate and develop and, in the absence of a network of TV companies bidding for rights, the GAA must be innovative in this area in order to get the best return possible.

“Of course, there is a balance to be struck between generating revenue and having games free-to-air, but in 2024, almost 260 GAA games will be televised free-to-air and the combined audience for these games will run to many tens of millions of viewers.”

Leddy also had a role in the controversial plan to remove five counties from the National Hurling League. As a member of Croke Park’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC), he was a sponsor of a proposal to redirect funds from the county teams in Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Longford and Louth and into their clubs.

“I am a member of the Central Competitions Control Committee that proposed the removal from the National Hurling League of five counties, which have 22 adult club hurling teams between them.

“In 2007, the combined figure was 29. The view of the CCCC was that the level expenditure on an intercounty team in a county with so few adult club teams to pick from was simply not a good use of resources and time, and that the resources and the time involved in playing in the leagues would be better spent working to promote the game in clubs with the aim of increasing the number of adult teams over time.

“If these five counties, on average, spend €150,000 a year on the county’s senior hurling team, then over a 15-year-period, €11.25 million will have been spent, and all we have gained from the last 15 years is a drop of 26 per cent in the number of adult club teams.

“This is not promotion of the game, and if it is, then it is clearly not working. The intention of the CCCC is not to deny players games. These players should be getting games at club level, and that can only happen through the provision of cross-county and cross-provincial competitions and more importantly, through an increase in the number of clubs playing.”

He also referred to the now inevitable debate on the state of football, summarising: “The GAA supporter wants a fast-moving, end-to-end game. What we are delivering more often than not, is a slow methodical game.”

Leddy’s solution, which he describes as “one ‘nuclear option’ suggestion” and “maybe the one worth trialling too”, is “reducing the number of players to 13, or even 12 a side. This would have the impact of creating far more space on the field, and that may naturally lead to a more open attacking game, without the need for any major rule changes”.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times