GAA digital archive: good start but where’s the rest of it?
There is footage from 60 years of All-Ireland finals, but some big gaps need to be filled
Former Dublin goalkeeper Paddy Cullen, left, and former Kerry footballer Mikey Sheehy during the launch of the GAA Digital Archive at Croke Park in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Piece by piece, the GAA continues to make strides at curating its history and bubble-wrapping it safely for the generations to come. Another step forward was announced at Croke Park yesterday with the launch of the association’s digital archive, a move to reclaim its own footage from the grainy swamplands of YouTube and beyond.
The archive, announced in conjunction with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, has been compiled by accessing footage from broadcasters and editing it into bite-size pieces for general consumption. It is available on site in the Croke Park museum and online at gaa.ie/archive, and is an easily searchable collection of highlights packages from 113 All-Ireland hurling and football finals going back to 1961.
While welcome, the online version of the archive is far from perfect on first viewing. Although there is a facility in the Croke Park museum reading room to view full-length versions of matches, this option isn’t available online. The press release that accompanied the launch advertises provincial finals along with All-Ireland finals, but they aren’t available online either.
Neither is there any sign of the club finals from the past 30 years, as promised in the release. For an association that preaches democracy, it seems like an odd choice to include only teams that have made All-Ireland finals in the online archive, excluding the vast majority of the GAA populace at a stroke. Presumably this will be expanded as time passes.
That said, nothing sums up the appetite that exists for this kind of stuff in the GAA as much as the fact that the first reaction to a mass release of footage like this is to turn around and ask where the rest of it is. The association has for so long lagged so far behind in the provision of details on its own history, whether in annotated or filmed form, that any step forward must be saluted. It can only be hoped that a results archive that details teams, dates, scorers and referees is the next project on the horizon.
“This is a fantastic initiative and one that safeguards so much of our history, not just for those who might have been fortunate to see the games the first time around, but for future generations too,” said GAA president John Horan at the launch.
“These games were taken from vaults, where they were kept on video tape, and their digitisation ensures that they can be enjoyed here at the GAA Museum and around the world through the internet.”
The chairman of the BAI, Pauric Travers, was also present at the launch in Croke Park. “In digitising television recordings of key GAA games and making them available through gaa.ie and the GAA museum, audiences will get to relive the excitement of key matches from football and hurling championships spanning almost six decades,” he said.
“The BAI’s Archiving Scheme is designed to support the development of an archiving culture in the Irish broadcasting sector, and this initiative will ensure that a key element of Ireland’s sports broadcasting heritage will be preserved for future generations.”