Fans deserve to know teams before games

At a time when every sport is vying for column inches and airtime, GAA activities receive a good share of media coverage when the hurling and football championships are in full swing.

At a time when every sport is vying for column inches and airtime, GAA activities receive a good share of media coverage when the hurling and football championships are in full swing.

Every supporter looks forward to hearing their team being announced in advance of a major game. The lineouts for league fixtures are also eagerly awaited as supporters wonder if new talent is getting an opportunity.

Counties are obliged under rule to submit their team for the match programme a number of days in advance of the fixture. While this regulation is observed, in many instances the team which appears in the match programmes can sometimes bear no resemblance to the one which starts the game.

Last Sunday’s Leinster and Ulster football finals are a good example of where supporters were left short-changed when it came to buying the match programme. The Dublin and Donegal teams which started showed numerous changes to what appeared in the programmes.

It was a similar story with many hurling and football games since the commencement of both championships. I have no doubt that supporters who handed over a couple of euro for the programmes felt aggrieved.

The situation has become so serious that the GAA has little choice but to consider how it will address the situation. The Association has two choices.

It can take a dim view of any changes in the starting team unless it is clear that a player is unable to play for some genuine reason. Deciding what constitutes a genuine reason is a challenge in itself.

On the other hand, maybe it is time to accept the inevitable by just listing the panel of players, with the actual team to be announced one hour before throw-in.

Farcical

The GAA sports media will not like such a development but the current situation is farcical. Something must change as the current carry-on is bringing the game into disrepute.

When mentioning GAA sports media, the refusal by some counties to engage with some media outlets is yet another difficulty for the GAA.

A number of counties have placed an embargo on any interaction with the media while some county mentors have taken umbrage at comments made in the media regarding their team’s performances. Admittedly this behaviour is not unique to Gaelic games as high profile individuals in many global sports sometimes refuse to speak to specific media outlets.

Media coverage is the oxygen which keeps all sports alive. Too many people in the GAA fail to see the importance of maximising the exposure of games which is principally portrayed through the views of players and team mentors.

There is, of course, a balance to be struck between what is fair coverage and expecting too much of players as they prepare for a big game. As for mentors feeling aggrieved, if their team is criticised, this is something that is present in every sport, so it is not unique to Gaelic games.

I know from experience that it can hurt and sometimes such criticism is unfair and unbalanced. Everyone has an opinion on how teams and players perform. It is the role of the GAA sports media to deliver reports in as fair and balanced a manner as possible.

If that happens then players and mentors should accept whatever is said or written and use it to their advantage. We wondered after last year’s hurling championship what 2014 might have in store. We have not been disappointed as the bulk of the games to date have delivered exceptionally exciting fare.

Clare lit up the championship last year. This year it is Wexford who are hitting the headlines, but they have some way to go to match the achievements of the Banner boys. This year six or seven counties held realistic ambitions of winning the All-Ireland hurling title.

That is a big change from two years ago. It is a good change, however.