DONEGAL chiefs are to write to Croke Park to express disappointment at last week’s confirmation that the GAA has struck a deal with Sky Sports to screen a total of fourteen Championship matches over an initial three-year period from this summer.
The news sparked widespread debate last week across all strands of the media and on Monday night in Ballybofey, the controversial topic got an airing at the monthly sitting of the Donegal county committee.
All speakers on the night spoke against the deal, with no-one in the room expressing any positive sentement on the matter.
Cloughaneely delegate Seamus Ó Domhnaill made the proposal that Donegal write to the GAA hierachy to convey those thoughts and asking that any future deals between the GAA and Sky Sports are put through the annual Congress for ratification. His call was seconded by the Bundoran delegate Michael McMahon.
The Bundoran man was one of the more vocal opponents on Monday night.
“It would have been very nice if the GAA had consulted with clubs or indeed with the people of rural Ireland,” he said.
“People in rural Ireland have a difficult enough financial situation. Now, they won’t be able to see fourteen of our games.
“The players and the people who support the GAA, the ordinary people, should have a say. These are the people who built the GAA up to be one of the best amateur organisations in the world.
“We are now in a very dangerous situation. I would be very worried about what will happen after three years time when the GAA goes to renew the deal.
“As someone who fights against emigration, I do feel that it is important that our emigrants see our games.
“That there was no consultation is a cause for concern and we should be mindful that RTE or TG4 could get over-run by an international organisation like Sky Sports.”
Seán Dunnion invited comments on the topic and while delegates initiallly appeared reluctant to take up the chance, McMahon’s comments got the ball rolling.
“We are going the same was as rugby,” was the feeling of the Naomh Ultan representative, Terence McGinley.
“We will be sitting here in three years’ time and we will lose more games. That is the way we’re going here. Mr McKenna (Peter, Croke Park Stadium Director) and Mr Duffy (Paraic, GAA Director General) can sit and work out another deal, Mr O’Neill (Liam, GAA President) won’t be around because he’ll have done his term.
“We are going the same way as rugby. If anyone here can contradict that, I would be very surprised. In ten years’ time I think that we will be paying for every single GAA game that we’ll be watching.
“Why did this not go through congress? Why wasn’t it discussed through clubs, going through county convention and onto congress? Why was this not done? The reason is because it was going to be shot down.
“There should be forty clubs represented here not one, not one said a word. The executive are sitting there and not one said a word.”
Seán Dunnion said that the feelings of the executive have been passed onto the Central Council delegate, Niall Erskine, who said there were upcoming meetings of the Ard Chomairle and the Coiste Bainisti which he said would deal with the matter.
Seamus O Domhnaill said that ‘the deal is not good for the customer’, adding: “They are thinking about nothing other than the financial benefit the GAA will have. They are not thinking about the best interests of the people on the ground.
“If it was voted on at Congress then they would get a true reflection of peoples’ views.”
Dungloe’s Enda Bonner lent his voice to the growing dissent.
“When my children were young I didn’t have Sky. Where would they have seen their GAA matches if this deal had gone through at that time?” he wondered.
“Mr McKenna seems to have been the main man behind this. He is a commercial man; he is not GAA. The biggest insult to clubs and to the members of the GAA was that this decision was taken secretly.”
While Ardara’s Mary Kelly said it was ‘time that the clubs got a slice of the cake from Croke Park’ and added that there was ‘no funding available from Croke Park’ her comments were knocked back by the county secretary, Aodh Mairtin Ó Fearraigh.
He said: “That comment is unfair. We have received over €1million for our floodlighting at MacCumhaill Park, thousands of euro for the Centre of Excellence in Convoy and the money that comes down from Croke Park is being distributed by Ulster. The money is coming from Croke Park. Eighty per cent of the money generated by Croke Park is going back to the units.”
Children’s Officer Mick McGrath said there should have been ‘constructive debate’ and, responding to a suggestion from Enda Bonner that Donegal express their thoughts through the Central Council delegate rather than in letter form, added: “The unrest that this has caused because of not being discussed at Central Council level is totally unacceptable. We should never be afraid to cause unrest in Croke Park if it is fair and constructive.”
Michael McMenamin (Development Officer) and Oliver Prunty (Convoy) were others to speak against it.