BBC BLOGS - Austin O'Callaghan

Archives for June 2010

Are you for Clones or Croke Park?

Austin O'Callaghan | 15:59 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

As soon as referee Marty Duffy blows the full-time whistle in Cavan this Sunday, Ulster GAA officials will gather to decide where to stage next month's Ulster final. They have a few choices.

Strong cases will be made to take the game to Croke Park. The Dublin venue is available on 18 July and Ulster has already shown it works having staged three consecutive provincial finals there in 2004-06.

clones.jpgIs St Tiernach's Park the best venue for the Ulster final?

And we all like the idea of a trip to Croker. It seems to send out a little statement about the healthy state of the northern game.

There will be other voices in support of Casement Park which is at the heart of Ulster's new strategic master plan. The west Belfast venue has become more of a football ground than a hurling one so far this summer - and if proposed Government money comes online, it could well become the GAA's new permanent home north of the border.

However, in my view, Clones is the obvious choice for the 2010 final. Yes, the traffic can be lousy. And It may not be everyone's favourite ground but it is tailor-made for next month's decider.

Whether it is Tyrone v Fermanagh or Tyrone v Monaghan, St Tiernach's Park should be at or close to its 35,000 capacity.

Surely a packed, heaving ground adds more to the Ulster final experience than a crowd of 40,000+ which, while very respectable, will simply look lost in a Croke Park stadium built for 82,000.

Choosing Clones will probably mean tickets will be in demand. Ultimately some supporters may be left disappointed but there is, at least, the consolation of live TV.

Another argument (which makes the dangerous assumption that Monaghan will beat Fermanagh) is that Clones would give the Farney County an unfair 'home' advantage.

This is nonsense. What was the score again in the 2007 Ulster final? St Tiernach's Park looked more like Brian Dooher's back garden that day than Thomas Freeman's.

Perhaps, I am missing something here, but all the signs point to a trip to Clones. Am I right?

Room for all in great sporting summer

Austin O'Callaghan | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 14 June 2010

I begin this week with a defence of one of the GAA's big rivals this summer.

An article during the week described the World Cup as overhyped rubbish'. While some of the football being played might fall into that category (my sympathies to viewers of Slovenia v Algeria last Sunday), it is a grossly unfair generalisation.

The World Cup is billed as the biggest sporting event on the planet. That's not hype - that's a fact. In terms of exposure and audience around the globe, it easily outstrips the combined reach of the Olympics, Rugby World Cup and Ryder Cup.

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Austin O'Callaghan is blowing his Vuvuzela for the World Cup, as well as the Championship

And the truth is many GAA fans have one eye on the Championship this month and the other on what is happening in South Africa. I am one such person.

We had a World Cup sweep in the BBC Sport NI office. My team? The Ivory Coast. So I am hoping that Didier Drogba (broken hand permitting) will do for the African side this month what Benny Coulter did for Down last month.

It is unlikely that the World Cup is affecting GAA attendances. If crowds are down it may have more to do with live TV and punters watching their pockets.

With no Irish team in South Africa, the preoccupation with the World Cup may not be quite as acute.

The Ulster Council looks to have been pretty shrewd in its scheduling of football championship matches this summer. The only possible big clash with a high-profile World Cup game (England v Germany if they get through) is likely to come on 27 June - the day of the Monaghan v Fermanagh semi-final.

But the buzz in both counties after their respective first round wins means we can be optimistic that there will be a decent crowd at this game. I hear some supporters in the Erne County are busy making a Fermanagh version of the Vuvuzela!

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Behind the scenes at The Championship

Austin O'Callaghan | 18:12 UK time, Sunday, 6 June 2010

There is a lot of work which goes in behind the scenes to make sure the Championship games go out on television.

Let me be your guide for a look at how BBC Sport NI covers big matches.

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All the cameras, trucks and cables will be heading to Breffni Park for Saturday's match between Cavan and Fermanagh.

But, in the meantime, please let me know what you think of our coverage of the Ulster Championship and if you have any questions I will do my very best to answer them.

Can Armagh do an 'Inniskeen' on Monaghan?

Austin O'Callaghan | 14:49 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

If you are a manager, you look for and take every single advantage or edge over your opponents that you can get.

Some Monaghan supporters are still scratching their heads as to why Sunday's game with Armagh is in west Belfast.

But to me, there is no mystery about the choice of venue. It was, after all, Armagh's call (in consultation with the Ulster Council). It is their 'home' game.

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Paddy O'Rourke's Armagh play Seamus McEnaney's Monaghan at Casement Park in west Belfast

Farney fans might consider Inniskeen. Tyrone were taken there back in March, and it wasn't for the poetry.

It was one of Monaghan's 'alternative' home venues in the National League.

Yes, the local GAA club there deserved a big day out for the work done on its excellent ground. But it's hard to imagine Seamus McEnaney having had too many objections to bringing Tyrone into unfamiliar territory.

Monaghan won the match. It is perhaps the main reason they are still in Division One next year.

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