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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.

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!

What is clear is that there will be no repeat of the crazy scenes in 2002 when the Derry-Donegal Ulster semi-final was played in a near-empty Clones while the Republic went out on penalties to Spain.

GAA journalists in the Clones press box were famously reprimanded by one official for having the cheek to crowd around a portable TV so that they could watch the action from South Korea while they worked.

There are GAA supporters for whom the World Cup has little or no meaning to their summer. And I respect their views. But there is plenty of room for both this summer. In fact for a lot of people, this month is a sporting bonanza.

Take this Saturday as an example. It will be possible to watch Ghana v Australia at lunchtime on BBC1, Holland v Japan in the afternoon, then the big one - Tyrone v Down at 5.15.

As there is no extra-time for provincial semi-finals, you have plenty of it at the final whistle to switch over or to find a TV for Cameron v Denmark.

To some people this viewing itinerary might sound like a ridiculous existence (my wife is a case in point). But to others, it is sofa utopia! (OK. I will have to miss most of the Holland match because we will be getting ready for our live programme at Casement, but you get my drift).

The World Cup is no threat to the Championship. I think it actually adds to the enjoyment of both events. Now...anybody know where can I buy an Ivory Coast jersey?


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