Updated: 24/07/17 : 05:47:10
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Sky kept grassroots fans waiting in Sligo

By Eugene McGloin

GRASSROOTS FANS of the GAA were left waiting without action for over twenty minutes in Sligo on Saturday night last.

The All Ireland senior footballer knockout qualifier between Galway and Donegal failed to throw in at 7pm in Markievicz Park, as advertised.

Sligo was a neutral venue for the meeting of the two teams to decide a place in the last eight of the All Ireland senior football 'search for Sam.'

The fixture attracted over 11,000 fans -- some of them making round trips of 200-plus miles.

Saturday's game receipts in Sligo are likely to have exceeded 200,000 for the GAA.

Officials had to defer the starting time in Sligo to facilitate live coverage by Sky subscription channel.

The fiasco came just hours before leading RTE's GAA pundit Joe Brolly said ''The GAA is being seduced by capitalism.'' See below. 

Two of Saturday night's officials, Marty Duffy of Sligo and Maurice Deegan of Laois, have officiated at All Ireland finals but it was Wicklow man Anthony Nolan who was whistler in charge.

However, on Saturday it was 'Mammon' -- alias the GAA's lucrative deal with Sky -- whose word was (more) final. 

The delay in coverage arose after Cork's late, late equaliser 138 miles away in Limerick against Mayo in another GAA senior football knockout qualifier.

That score forced extra time down south which meant the fans in Sligo had to wait, and wait.

Switch Channels

In recent years, Sky has exclusively covered several Mayo games live as it builds up its subscriber base. 

Several British stations sometimes switch between their numbered channels during live coverage of music and sports events.

It appears Sky had no similar 'slack' channel to pick up over-runs in its live schedules, including Sligo, last weekend.

Three Hours

Some fans had already been in the Markievicz Park for over three hours; an Under 21C All Ireland hurling final had commenced at 4pm.

In that game, which finished ninety minutes before the football tie, Donegal took the title by beating Sligo 1-14 to 0-12.

Luckily, heat was not a major factor in Sligo on Saturday and the bright day meant extra time, if needed, would probably have finished in daylight.

Meanwhile, both Donegal and Galway panels had completed lengthy on-field warm-ups and exercises in Markievicz Park prior to the start being deferred on Saturday night.

The fiasco in Sligo came just hours before leading GAA pundit Joe Brolly said ''The GAA is being seduced by capitalism.''

Backbone Supporters

Joe Brolly specifically slated the Sky deal during a lengthy interview in The Sunday Business Post yesterday.

Former All Ireland winning hurler Michael Duignan also recently criticised what he saw as GAA greediness in the deal with Sky.

Duignan cited older people, who had been the backbone supporters of the GAA, being deprived of live coverage of key games.

Yesterday, Joe Brolly said ''other games' ' had been turned into ''commercial behemoths dominated by huge sums of money.''

This process, said Brolly, saw these games ''divorced from the grassroots fans that had crested the games in the first place.''

The lawyer and All Ireland medal winner with Derry in 1993 revealed that he takes no fees for his youth work with the GAA.

'Awful Humiliation'

Final word on the Sligo game went to Joe Brolly on RTE last night, quoting a Donegal fan.

''Thank God it was shown on Sky, said the fan: ''It would have an awful humiliation if it had been shown on RTE.''

Final score in Saturday's Markievicz Park surprise mauling of Donegal by Galway was 4-17 to 0-14.

Link: See Sligo Today 23/7/2017.