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Kerry GAA fans deserve more than dead air

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Kerry GAA came under fire last Saturday night when technical difficulties with their county final livestream left thousands of viewers staring at a blank screen.

As had been the case in previous rounds, supporters were invited to purchase the stream for the big match between East Kerry and Mid Kerry via 247.tv, this time at a cost of €10.

Anticipation was high but things quickly turned sour when the stream crashed midway through the first half, prompting scores of supporters to take to Twitter and vent their frustration. Among other things, the stream was branded a “joke”, “shocking” and a “disgrace”, and many viewers demanded a refund.

One fan commented: “Full cash refund please. Service not of merchantable quality or fit for purpose. Let me know where I can send on my bank details for the full cash refund. Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.”

The tweeter went on to express his gratitude to his former business studies teacher, Mike Leahy, who schooled him on his consumer rights when he was a first year student at St Brendan’s College.

A Kerry GAA tweet which contained the link to the stream received 78 replies in total, almost all of which were complaints. The tweet got just three RTs and 19 likes, and two of the RTs were also complaints.

It was a ratio that would make any social media manager break out in a cold sweat.

GRIEVANCES

The grievances naturally centred around the drop in coverage, but in reality much of the dismay actually stemmed from the fact that this was not the first time a Kerry GAA livestream had failed.

Previous broadcasts were also beset by technical difficulties, perhaps most notably the quarter-final tie between Mid Kerry and Kenmare Shamrocks, which cut out in stoppage time as Kenmare were probing for a championship-saving equaliser.

Calls for refunds were ignored then, with Kerry GAA stating that the technical issues were unavoidable and, ultimately, not their fault.

Saturday evening’s stream came back on after a matter of minutes but even when it was back working, viewers had another complaint to make. One fan noted that the on-screen scoreboard was incorrect. Upon reviewing the video it was found that the score failed to update on three separate occasions, which meant that viewers were looking at the wrong score for six minutes in total.

FINANCIAL REASONS

What made last weekend’s debacle even more maddening for supporters is the fact that the state broadcaster, RTÉ, had offered to show the county final on free-to-air television. As was reported in The Kerryman, RTÉ would have paid Kerry GAA a substantial fee for the rights to the game but Chairman Tim Murphy confirmed that they had rejected the bid for financial reasons.

“From our perspective, what we would get from terrestrial TV would in no way come close to what we would hope to get out of the streaming,” he said.

This was the second year in a row that Kerry GAA turned down a national broadcaster. TG4 were keen to show last year’s final between East Kerry and Dr Crokes but the County Board decided that they would make more money from match tickets if the game was not aired on TV.

That may well have been true, but the decision proved controversial as it prevented many people who were, for whatever reason, unable to travel to Tralee that day from seeing one of the biggest games in living memory.

DISAPPOINTED

To be honest, I have to say that personally I have been a little disappointed with Kerry GAA’s response to this latest controversy. None of the online complaints were addressed over the weekend, no explanation was provided, and, at the time of going to print, no apology was forthcoming.

In fact, the only person who received a reply on Saturday night was the one observer who praised the “very enjoyable @Kerry_Official county football final livestream”. Kerry GAA quote retweeted the comment, thanking the man in question, so all of their 65.8k followers could see his positive feedback.

Understandably, this only agitated people further.

This week I reached out to the County Board to see if they would be making any statement regarding the stream but they declined to comment.

The only matter they would be drawn on was the one concerning season ticket holders who are unhappy with having to pay for livestreams (the passes they bought at the start of the year would have covered their admission if spectators were permitted to attend).

A number of these fans had asked me to follow up on this issue as they were unhappy with the response (or lack thereof) they had received from the County Board and from the GAA, but this week I was told that concerned season ticket holders can contact Kerry GAA directly.

(UPDATE: Yesterday the County Board offered season ticket holders a “free pass” to watch the upcoming livestreams of the Junior and Intermediate semi-finals and finals, starting this weekend with Ballydonoghue v Brosna and Gneeveguilla v Fossa. This appears to have done little to assuage the fans, who have already paid for the privilege of watching the two biggest competitions, the Senior Club and County Championships, from start to finish.)

 

https://twitter.com/frankky88/status/1311671868722733058?s=20

 

REFUND

While I understand that it is a big ask to give everyone a refund when in this case the disgruntled customers may well number in the double-digit thousands, it is not unheard of for county boards to do so. As recently as September 5, Mayo GAA handed out refunds after their livestream of the county semi-final crashed. They even went one step further by putting on the following day’s matches (the other county semi-final and an intermediate semi-final) for free.

Last year, Tyrone GAA also refunded fans when their county final coverage experienced technical difficulties.

No one wants to see Kerry GAA losing out on any sum of money. The pandemic has made it a difficult year for the GAA financially and they obviously want to bring in as much money as possible.

A lot of work has gone into the streaming project and by and large it has been a great addition. The County Board deserve our gratitude for that.

But we must also think of the supporters. Over the past few months, the county’s most loyal football fans (who have also had to deal with the pandemic, remember) have forked out a considerable sum of money for access to a service. Unfortunately – and this much is undeniable – the service hasn’t always worked as it should have (Saturday’s final being a case in point).

The ‘refund’ option might be an unpalatable one for the County Board, but these fans deserve something. They certainly deserve more than just dead air.

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Eileen rewarded for her dedication to athletics

By Sean Moriarty Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer. The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last. As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer.

The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last.

As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home and abroad they decided to honour Mrs Switzer for her “lifetime of volunteering to the community, to sport, to youth and for championing diversity and inclusion”.

“Eileen has been an advocate, a coach and an administrator in the sport of athletics for over 60 years in the town of Killarney, Kerry and beyond,” said club chair Jerry Griffin.

Eileen and her husband Frank have dedicated their lives to the community games and athletics in the greater Killarney area.

“I enjoy, but I don’t like, all the limelight,” she told the Killarney Advertiser.

“I like to watch newcomers as they come up through the ranks, many of the Community Games people of the past are now running the committee.”

In a life time dedicated to volunteerism in Killarney Eileen has helped sports like golf, pitch and putt and badminton grow.  She was also heavily involved in the local Irish dancing scene and remains a great supporter of Kerry Parents and Friends.

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Eamonn Fitzgerald: How to improve the modern game

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Fixing the tackle, binning the bin and cutting the numbers… Former Kerry goalkeeper Eamonn Fitzgerald puts forward a number of measures that he feels would rejuvenate Gaelic football

In recent weeks most of the discussion on Kerry football has centred on the appointment of Jack O’Connor as manager of the Kerry senior football team. The Sam Maguire hasn’t returned to Kerry since locals Kieran O’Leary and Fionn Fitzgerald lifted the Holy Grail in 2014. The domination of the Dubs with the six-in–a row and the disappointments of the past three years, when Peter Keane was very unlucky not to manage Kerry to victory, has led to a deeper frustration among the Kerry supporters.

Some followers of football are losing interest in the game as it is played today. Some say they don’t bother going to games anymore, because the style of football has deteriorated into a mixture of basketball and athletics.

The romanticised recollections of the high-fielding of Mick O’Connell and the marking your own man, thou shalt not pass type of football is largely gone. Joe Keohane, Teddy O’Connor, Paddy Bawn, Paudie O’Shea and a host of others made sure that the opposition’s attackers never got a chance to have an unchallenged shot at the goalkeeper. Zonal defence, how are you?

THE  TACKLE

Mick O’Dwyer always said that there is no really clearly defined tackle in Gaelic football, and I agree fully with him. He saw it from three sides: as a defender, attacker and manager. I talked to him many times about this.

There are three basic types of tackle in Gaelic football: (a) the side tackle, the most common one, (b) the front tackle, (c) the tackle from behind. The referee is the sole judge and has to decide if it is a free in or a free out. Types (b) and (c) don’t pose any real difficulties in decision making. Both are fouls. But a shoulder to shoulder is allowable. However, if a player gets a fair shoulder and falls to the ground, invariably the referee favours the fallen one.

One Kerry football defender of the past perfected the ideal ruse. When he was slowing up in his latter days with Kerry and he faced a jinking speedster, he ushered him out towards the sideline, gave his customary right belt of a shoulder, and then assisted the forward with a helping hand to ensure he stayed on his feet. Free out. Over-playing the ball.

The rule regarding tackling states that you must use one hand and one hand only, but the problem is: what does a defender actually do with that one hand, as opposed to what he is allowed do.

Tackling in Gaelic Football is confined to tackling the ball. It is illegal to trip, punch, hold, drag, pull or rugby tackle another player.

For defenders all you can do safely without conceding a free in is to shadow the opponent with both arms outstretched, doing a sprightly dance like David Rea’s Riverdance, hoping you can entice/force the forward out to the sideline where he is least likely to score. Two hands draw the foul. Of course, some defenders play to the optics using the one hand and raising up the other hand so that the ref thinks he is not fouling. What is the defender doing with that hand? Playing the ball trying to punch it out from the attacker? If that hand delivers a punch to the solar plexus, so be it, as the referee is usually unsighted. Or, as happens too often in club games, the referee is not up with the game and cannot see what is really happening. As he makes his way to the scene, I believe that he is unduly influenced by the roar of the crowd. “Free in, ref!”. Thank you very much says Seánie O’Shea and Dean Rock.

Rugby is very clear-cut when it come to the defined tackle and to some extent in soccer, where the sliding tackle is not acceptable.

While there is some credence in the perception of these disillusioned football followers, who long for the Kerry football style of the good old days, I don’t see it through the same rose-tinted glasses. Too often in the past the hard man was lauded for his physical prowess and not for his skills. I can see the merit of the modern possession game, but not endless lateral hand-passing, the fulcrum for launching a successful game strategy, which was one good reason why Dublin won six-in-a-row. They were also a great team.

You’re a loser all the way with Dean Rock and Seánie O’Shea delivering almost 100%. Take a recent game as an example. Seánie kicked 15 points versus Dr Crokes and 14 of those were frees, from any distance from 45 metres inwards. The winning score was 17 points. So a reliable free-taker is essential on any team.  He repeated the performance on Sunday last by scoring 11 points to squeeze past Dingle. The scoring in football games nowadays is very high and even more so in hurling.

PITY THE REFEREE

I have great sympathy for the referee in football and have never commented on the performance of the referees in these pages, unless I attended the game. Second-hand accounts are biased, unreliable and unacceptable. When I attend games in person, I comment on the performance of the referee, but never personalise these comments. It is a judgement on performance not on the referee as a person.

Quite simply, I respect referees. I believe they have an impossible job. It’s tough enough at intercounty level but pity the ref in some local game where he does not have neutral umpires or linesmen. The ref should apply the rules, but also apply common sense, knowing the difference between a deliberate intentional foul and body contact where the player is playing the ball, not the man. No free or card for such, even if the player falls to the ground.

The modern game has evolved and there is much to recommend it, but I believe that it can be made much more enjoyable for players and spectators by making necessary changes

IMPROVEMENTS

Some of the he rules are not clear-cut, particularly the tackle.

Rid the game of the mark. The idea was that it would reward high-fielding, a wonderful but fast–fading feature of the game. It has not done that, particularly around the middle of the park. Midfield is often bypassed today and worst of all a mark is allowed for a player near goal, who manages to catch a low ball stumbling to the ground and raises his hand within a few seconds to signal his achievement. Did he, or did he not, raise his hand? Invariably the referee awards the mark and a simple tap over for a certain point, which may be the winning score.

Learn from the women’s game. The LGFA has got it right with the clock (in major venues) taking the timing of games away from the referees. The same happens in basketball. The clock stops when there is a hold up in play. Then there are no grounds for dispute. I have seen too many games where the referee played too much overtime, or too little, and the winning scores came during the extended time. Recently I witnessed 13 minutes added on by a referee. There is a lot of stoppage time in 13 minutes.

Spectators have watches and stopwatches/timers on their phones, so then the arguments commence. That time added on is at the discretion of the referee. He has too much to do already and more advisory discretion should be given to umpires and linesmen. In the absence of a clock, let the other officials bear that responsibility.

Get rid of the water-breaks too. Too often they influence the flow of the play. Pardon the pun, but too often they also change the run of play.

13-A-SIDE

I would love to see the teams reduced to 13 players. Take out the full back and the full forward, create more space and set the scene for more open football. I have seen it used very successfully at colleges level and it is a joy to watch. Also, it would help rural clubs in particular, who are hard pressed to have 15 players available due to depopulation and other factors. It would help clubs to field their own team instead of being forced to join up with their neighbouring parish, probably their greatest rivals for many years. Amalgamations are undesirable, but often necessary. I think of South Kerry clubs in particular.

There is an argument to get rid of all referees’ cards, red, yellow and black. For a start dump the black card. As it is, some players feign injuries, waste time and run down the clock. The 10-minute penalty and 14 players effectively means the sin-binned player returns after seven, six or dare I say five minutes. The timekeeper is the ref. He is not God almighty and he has enough to do.

The modern game of football has plenty going for it, but there are responsibilities on the GAA authorities, the referees, the managers and the players to improve the enjoyment of the game. Ditto for the spectators, the hurlers on the ditch, or in this case the footballers on the terraces. Too many are not conversant with the new rules. It is hard to blame them; there has been too much tricking around with the rules governing football that it can be hard to know the updated position.

That situation with local club rivalry and natural bias leads to misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the facts and rules that leads to difference of opinions, to put it very mildly.

Pity the poor ref having to make instant decisions, de facto on his own. Video analysis is not confined just to The Sunday Game. Many club games are also filmed. The ref can’t win. Who would want to be a referee? Certainly not for the money – a very modest €40 for a local senior game.

Is it a just reward for running the gauntlet of some players, or a few officials who spend half their time encroaching onto the pitch, and the tirade of abuse from spectators, usually personal, misguided and unwarranted?

Who’s reffing the game on Sunday next?

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