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'A glimpse behind the curtain' - TG4 provide unique coaching insight with Flannery warm-up clip

Kieran Hartigan speaks to The42 about the station’s pre-match coverage of Munster’s Pro14 clash with Connacht which impressed viewers.

THERE WAS WIDESPREAD praise for TG4′s coverage of Munster’s Gunniess Pro14 clash with Connacht over the weekend, which featured a fascinating insight into Jerry Flannery’s coaching technique.

The Munster forwards coach was wearing a microphone during their warm-up which captured him offering some pre-match advice to Keith Earls as well as directing the scrum ahead of the inter-pro derby at the Sportsground.

“Practise some fielding because it’s actually not that bright,” he instructs Earls at one point during the short 44-second clip that was edited down from 15 minutes of audio.

Viewers were impressed with how the coverage engaged with the team’s preparation for the game, and the Irish language station is pleased with the response to their approach.

“We’ve been doing this since effectively Round 2 of this season,” Kieran Hartigan of Iris Productions and Executive Producer of TG4′s Rugbaí Beo coverage tells The42. 

“We’ve had warm-up interviews or audio snoops on Andy Friend, Nigel Carolan. We had a warm-up interview with Eoin Griffin on the day of his 100th cap and we’ve done one with Dan McFarland.

“This has been an evolutionary process for us.

There’s a number of things that have to come together in order for this to happen. A broadcaster [has to be] willing to innovate and I think we see that with TG4 consistently with their sport output.

“You also have to have a good relationship with the clubs and we’re lucky that we have strong relationships with the various clubs and we need to get them to buy into this type of thing because it can be quite exposing.”

Hartigan explains that Iris Productions have a long history of covering rugby, which in turn has allowed them to develop these important connections with the clubs.

They also produced various documentaries including ‘The West’s Awake’ and ‘Munster: The Brave & The Faithful,’ projects that have helped them strengthen a sense of trust with Connacht and Munster Rugby.

Additionally, Iris Productions have been observing the broadcasting features of NFL, NBA and AFL games, and have identified a gap in the Irish market to introduce similar ideas.

All those factors have combined to produce a broadcasting package that offers viewers a unique view of the action.

“I would say that it’s very gratifying for us that the relationship we have with the clubs enables us to provide this small glimpse behind the curtain,” says Hartigan.

Andy Friend Connacht head coach Andy Friend (file pic). Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I would give credit to Connacht Rugby for opening themselves up to this. We did an audio snoop with Andy Friend in Round 2 which allowed us to show that to the other clubs and you can establish your bona fide in that regard and being open to these kind of innovations.”

“You have to appreciate that we are encroaching on their match-day preparations so we had worked with Munster rugby to agree that we could do this with Jerry and simultaneously we had also worked with Brendan Loughnane in Connacht Rugby to have Andy Friend’s microphone in the warm-up as well.

Anything that gives the viewer a peek behind the curtain is that bit more engaging. We’re seeing that in the audience’s reaction to TG4, they’re coming back to it and engaging with it.

TG4 Sport received glowing praise last year when they introduced small-screen replays for their live broadcast of Kilkenny’s clash with Tipperary in the Allianz NHL Division 1 final.

It allowed the audience to watch replays of a score without missing out on the live action.

Iris Productions’ inventive approach has allowed TG4 make similar strides with their rugby coverage and Hartigan emphasises that it’s part of their “wider ambition” for Rugbaí Beo.

New analysts have been introduced including Ireland international Eimear Considine and there are plans to develop the programme even more in the future.

It’s rare that you get a glimpse behind the curtain like this in modern professional sport, however fleeting. I think that’s why audiences responded so positively,” Hartigan concludes.

“The production companies that are working with TG4 in terms of their sports output are constantly innovating and that’s primarily because they’re working with a broadcaster that’s pushing them to do that and we’re probably also pushing each other to do that as well.”

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