Dromore's Colm O'Neill celebrates after their semi-final victory. Bryan Keane/INPHO
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Tyrone GAA defend price of senior football final stream

Once again the Tyrone SFC has produced a host of great storylines, but the decision to charge £16 to stream Sunday’s final has drawn criticism.

TYRONE GAA HAVE defended the cost of their online streaming service for this weekend’s county senior football final between Coalisland and Dromore. 

The Tyrone championship has developed a reputation as the most competitive club competition in the country.

No side has managed to retain the county title since 2005, while the past two seasons in particular have featured stunning comebacks, upsets, numerous periods of extra-time and penalty shoot-out drama. 

However, the charge of £16 (€18.72) for viewers to access Sunday’s game has drawn widespread criticism. 6,500 supporters paid £10 to watch last year’s decider via the online streaming service at a time when crowds were restricted due to the pandemic.

“In every walk of life people have to pay for what they’re getting,” Tyrone PRO Eugene McConnell tells The42

“There’s nothing in life free. If it was a fiver, some people would still want it to be £4. So far this year there has been no adverse reaction. To be fair, all our prices have gone up at the same juncture every time.

“They’re priced dearer than what it would be to get into the match and there’s been no reaction whether it was a semi-final, quarter-final or first round.

“If you go to the gate and pay £7 to get into the match, you pay one pound more and have the luxury of sitting at home and watching from your living room and not having to travel to the game or having issues around mobility, health or whatever.

“It was never been an issue. The increase is in course with what has happened at ever other stage of the championship.”

McConnell also explained that the costs incurred in broadcasting games rose this year due to extra production expenses.

“You have four cameras operating at a county final and a team of 12 people, they’re not going to go there and do that for nothing. 

“Diesel has gone up, electricity has gone up. The price of a loaf of bread has gone up. Everything in this current situation we don’t have control over the costs incurred. You can’t do something at a loss.

“If someone can go into a match and pay £15 into it and they’re happy to do that, there’s every bit as much reason for somebody that’s sitting at home (to pay £16).

“It’s not as if the service that’s being provided is inadequate or shoddy. At the end of the day it’s personal choice. Nobody in Tyrone GAA is insisting or trying to railroad people into purchasing the stream. At the end of the day if somebody buys the stream and there’s five or six people in their house, there’s swings and roundabouts. 

“Four years ago when I started this campaign there was no streaming service and there was nobody complaint about anything, but there was a demand and appetite to see our games no matter if you were in Tyrone, Timbuktu or Abu Dhabi.

“People wanted to avail of that facility and I’m trying my best to provide that service, anything else that goes on is well outside my remit in terms of decisions around pricing structures. It’s like anything in life, if it’s good enough people are willing to pay for it. If you’re a family of five people going to that on Sunday that’s going to cost you £45.”

The Irish News reported yesterday that the Tyrone county board turned down free-to-air coverage of the game on TG4 in favour of streaming it themselves. They added that a tentative request by RTÉ to air the game on a Saturday evening was also denied. 

“As far as I personally know, no request came in from either TG4 or RTÉ,” responded McConnell.

“As county PRO I wasn’t aware RTÉ had made an attempt to air it. The last time they did, they were in contact with me.

“There’s no onus for them to be in contact with me. But out of courtesy and respect I’d have thought it would have been nice to have got a heads up if that was the case.

“I’ve the utmost respect for both Declan McBennett  (RTÉ head of sport) and Fintan Ryan (RTÉ area manager) who I’ve worked closely with.

a-view-of-tg4-branding TG4 reportedly requested to broadcast the final. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I’d find it strange that they would come to me next week looking for a favour and they would inadvertently neglect to inform the PRO that’s going to be the closest person working with them and telling them if they were intending to cover the game.

“I can’t comment whether if there has been a direct line of communication from RTÉ or TG4, all I can say honestly, up front, from a personal capacity, I wasn’t aware of it.”

RTÉ showed Dromore’s semi-final win over Trillick two weeks ago, while an estimated “two or three thousand” signed up for Tyrone’s own live streaming of the other semi-final between Coalisland and Errigal Ciaran.

Tyrone GAA TV, McConnell’s brainchild when he became PRO four years ago, has been a major success for the county since it was launched. 45 games across junior, intermediate and senior have been streamed over the past six weeks as people from 113 countries across the globe tuned into the action. 

42 games were aired live last year on the channel and served in shoring up some of the losses from last year’s reduced attendances but with crowds returning in 2021 the appetite to stream games continued to grow.

“Some games are hit and miss, some games you’re just breaking even but in the overall package when you tally up he figures at the end of the year. Yeah it’s an additional source of revenue that certainly wasn’t there four years ago. 

“We’ve streamlined things, added on things that give people more value for money. I can’t see us ever deviating away from it because there is now a built up audience because we’re expecting it more than anything. If we were to cut off the supply now there would be a serious backlash.”

Former Tyrone players Peter Canavan, Joe McMahon, Enda McGinley and Ciaran Gourley have been among the 25 co-commentators used, in addition to All-Ireland winning joint-manager Feargal Logan.

“It has grown to a very successful venture,” he says. 

“Last year it was a godsend for people that couldn’t get to matches with restrictions on crowds. It has excelled again this year and we’re blessed because of the quality of football that goes with it. The appetite that’s out there, the hunger and desire to see the games just went up ten-fold. 

feargal-logan-lifts-the-sam-maguire Tyrone's All-Ireland winning joint-manager Feargal Logan has been on co-commentary duty for some club games. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Everybody has come to expect the thrills and excitement that goes with championship, but in Tyrone it just seems to bring out something else in teams.

“The games this year have been really to the wire, they’ve all been about quality football, passion, and just sheer desire. That’s what people love to see.”

Unlike most other counties, Tyrone continue to run off their championship in a straight knock-out format. The fact county players are distributed around the club teams has added to the excitement. Last season, Dungannon Thomas Clarkes won their first senior championship in 64 years in dramatic circumstances. 

All four of their games went to extra-time, including their first final since 1986 when they defeated reigning champions Trillick on penalties. 

“The teams are all very, very close,” explains former Tyrone player Kyle Coney, whose club Ardboe narrowly lost to Dromore in the opening round of this year’s championship.

“There’s no clear indication that you’re going to win a championship game, it’s hard to put into words. It’s so competitive, seven or eight years ago you could have probably picked all the first round winners in the championship whenever the draw was made. 

“Teams people would have thought have no chance of winning a championship game are making a run. 

“The Tyrone championship is really, really competitive. You look at Dungannon last year, never won a game in normal time but won the championship. So that just shows how competitive is it.”

This year’s madcap competition was no less exciting as both finalists displayed incredible powers of survival to reach the decider. Dromore squeezed past Ardboe with two late scores in their preliminary round and then fell 2-3 to 0-1 behind holders Dungannon in the first round. 

Dromore eventually prevailed in extra-time, as they did in the quarter-final. After surrendering an early 0-7 to no score lead against pre-championship favourites Trillick, they fell five pints behind before battling back to a 0-17 to 2-9 victory. 

“They showed a lot of composure and mental toughness themselves throughout the championship to get over the line,” says Coney.

Coalisland’s path to the final day was no less eventful. They trailed Edendork (who had Niall Morgan, Conn Kilpatrick and Darren McCurry in their side) by eight points in round 1, while Carrickmore led by two in closing stages of the quarter-final.

coalisland-huddle-before-the-game Coalisland face Dromore in Sunday's Tyrone SFC final. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

The 2018 champions staged stirring fightback to win both games, but their semi-final defeat of Errigal Ciaran (the club of Peter Harte and Canavan brothers Darragh and Ruairi) was simply remarkable. 

With 12 minutes left, Coalisland were 0-10 to 0-5 behind and reduced to 13 men when they launched an outrageous comeback. Three goals in the space of six minutes helped turn the tie on its head and display Coalisland’s unflappable self-belief.

“They were getting the ball in long and were just hoping for something to happen. When you’re getting it in long and causing havoc, things can happen.

“I think Errigal were maybe looking around for someone to take the ball on, Peter Harte was getting a hard time and his runs were being stopped. You have to do what you have to do to get over the line. 

“They were maybe lacking someone to have a bit of composure and Darragh Canavan wasn’t on the pitch at that stage. There was a lot of different stuff happening but Coalisland definitely went for it and things fell their way.

“I couldn’t actually believe what was happening before my eyes.”

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