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Could dressing room interviews become the norm in Irish sport?

Sports broadcasters are getting greater access to players but an American tradition has, so far, been avoided.

I’d have my c**k out if I scored four goals. I’d have my c**k out, stroking it.”

THE QUOTE [ABOVE] from Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks was bellowed to a group of 20 sports reporters as they spoke with prodigious hockey talent Tomas Hertl.

The 19-year-old was slightly over-enthusiastic in his goal celebrations but he could be forgiven for getting caught up in the excitement of racking up a dour-goal salvo. Thornton is 15 years Hertl’s senior but demonstrated some choice immaturity in seeking to defend his young teammate.

The Province newspaper, in Vancouver, published the comment and, with it, created a firestorm about what exactly is ‘on the record’ and whether journalists should have access to post-match dressing rooms.

The media scrum is a staple in America but days of interviewing players — occasionally over a beer — in dressing rooms are long gone from Irish sport. However, with RTE running with touchline interviews in the Airtricity League and sports broadcasters [Sky, BT etc.]  having a greater say on match coverage, could the dressing room become fair game?

David Wallace was present in many a fired-up dressing room over the course of his rugby career. Having taken part in some of Munster and Ireland’s finest matches, Wallace is a firm believer in the power contained between the four walls of a ‘home’ dressing room.

He said, “Back in the day, you would have had one or two journalists covering the rugby and they often would have chatted to in the tunnel or over a beer. Still, the dressing room was sacrosanct. At Munster, it was a place where you didn’t walk into before, during or after a match.”

Wallace believes there will not be any access granted to dressing rooms soon but notes the pull that broadcasters such as Sky Sports have with players on Heineken Cup weekends. With so much money being pumped into the game from broadcasters, the former Ireland flanker believes provinces have been forced to relinquish some control when it comes to granting interviews. “I don’t see it coming in any time soon,” he added, “but never say never.”

imageNo reporters allowed but Prince William was granted access into the Irish dressing room after their Grand Slam triumph in 2009. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Stephen Doyle of 98FM is of the opinion that one-one-one player access is ‘going the other way’. “There was a willingness a few years back,” he said, “to admit journalists into the dressing room when it came to football and GAA but that has, pretty much, stopped.”

He added, “The rights holders, like Sky Sports and BBC, are paying the money to get specific access to players. They call the tune and can do so, they feel, with some justification.”

The 28 October release of Lions Raw — the documentary that followed the British & Irish Lions to Australia — will feature behind-the-scenes footage that should give rugby supporters a real insight into the pre and post-match rituals of players such as Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell.

If scenes are anything like the ‘manic aggression’ rallying call O’Connell delivered to his Irish teammates [before they beat England] in 2007, it may tempt broadcasters to cross that imaginary line into the dressing room.

Snapshot: Mick Wallace wears Torino jersey in the Dáil

Simon Hick column: Still no clear plan for life after BOD

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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