THE AIB All-Ireland junior and intermediate football and hurling finals in Croke Park this weekend will be broadcast live for the first time ever on Irish TV.
There's plenty of local interest in tomorrow's (Saturday) football finals at GAA headquarters as Ardnaree Sarsfields contest the junior decider against Kerry and Munster champions Templenoe at 3 p.m., while in the intermediate final, Hollymount-Carramore face another Kerry club, St. Mary’s from Caherciveen, at 4.45 p.m.
Irish TV head of sport, Máirtin Ó Raghallaigh, said it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the real pride and passion of grassroot clubs to a global audience.
He added: “The backbone of the GAA is based around the small rural club and it is fitting that they are getting the TV exposure that they deserve this weekend. Irish TV is rooted in club and community in every county, and we are delighted and excited to be given this opportunity to showcase these ordinary clubs that are doing extraordinary things in their communities.”
For Ardnaree manager Declan O'Dea, the main goals for 2015 were to win the county junior title and cement the club's place in Division 1B of the Mayo league.
“But,” he added, “the nature of the draw was that we knew we had a home semi-final in Connaught, so you could target a provincial final too. Clifden have form in that competition and it was a tough match, but the lads played very well at the right times in the match. I went to the Ulster final itself and I knew we'd get a tough game from the Monaghan lads (in the All-Ireland semi-final), but I was confident we'd beat them.
“We're going to Croke Park now to play a Kerry team and it's a given that a Kerry team is hard to beat, but it's also true that Kerry teams are beatable. We think we're at a stage now where we won't leave this behind us. The lads see this as an opportunity and they're going to grab it with both hands. If we give a performance on the day we'll beat that Kerry team.”
Meanwhile, Hollymount-Carramore manager Tom Connelly said his side is not going to Croker for a tour of the GAA museum.
While acknowledging that St. Mary's are very capable, he added: “I think if we can match them in workrate - and that is one of our strong points - we are as good as them in the key areas, and with a bit of luck I think we are in with a big shout.
"A lot of our guys, maybe seven or eight, have played in Croke Park at one level or another, so I don't think playing at headquarters will present a problem for our lads. We are all looking forward to it."
Irish TV can be viewed on Sky channel 191, all free to air boxes, Freesat 400, Eir’s eVision 191 and online at www.irishtv.ie. Sunday's hurling finals feature Glenmore from Kilkenny against Eoghan Rua from Derry in the junior game at 2 p.m., with Galway champions Abbeyknockmoy taking on Bennettsbridge, Kilkenny, in the intermediate final at 3.45 p.m.