Yesterday marked the end of the month of Irish sport on television, that is television streamed through the internet and watched on my computer. It has taken me five years of living in Korea to master the art of searching through Google for the relevant link to watch a match, which is impressive. It was an ordeal I would recommend to anyone as the rewards are worthwhile, although they could have been much better.
For starters this is not the first time I’ve tried to find sport via the ould interweb. I know that when herself when was in Ireland, she never had any problems watching the things she wanted to. There are a few Korean websites that post television shows up after they are shown for the first time. I imagine you can do the same with certain Irish programmes too, but with live sport it’s completely different.
As good as a game may be, knowing the score in advance takes the vast majority, if not all, of the fun from watching it. After spending the summer in Ireland I was still empowered patriotically enough to want to follow both the GAA finals and the Rugby World Cup from Korea. If I lived in Itaewon this may not have been as big an ordeal as it may sound, but I live in Suwon, a city that is not renowned for its large following of GAA or rugby supporters. As far as I was aware there were absolutely no bars showing the GAA finals or the rugby. So I turned to the internet.
You have probably gathered that I possess a certain inability to locate internet streamed television in Korea after five years living here. I’m kind of thick when it comes to maximising technology but very adept at buying expensive technology I never learn how to use, such as my computer. Most of this thickness is inspired by laziness. I had overheard from some colleagues of mine that if you changed the IP address to an Irish one then you could watch whatever you wanted. I spent five minutes trying to do this about seven or eight months ago. As the first page of a Google search and Wikipedia couldn’t provide me with an immediate free alternative I gave up. The situation has yet to progress from this position.
When the challenge of finding sport streamed live on the internet for free emerged I was not happy to find that my problems remained the same. There is a plethora of live sports streaming channels that all require you to pay for them. Many of them will not tell you what games are being played until you sign up and find out that you can’t actually get the matches you want (at least that’s my view on it). In my desperate search for the GAA hurling final at the start of the month I found that Setanta Sports was showing it live on the internet and have been doing so for many, many years!
Setanta is an Irish cable TV company that is available on digital back home. They show football and rugby, mostly, but they were initially set up to service the Irish expat community with the GAA and international rugby. They have since expanded. Anyway, I’m not going to give you the history of the channel here but the information that’s important; they showed the GAA by streaming live through ye olde interweb. Fan-feckin’-tastic says I. The catch? Fifteen US Dollars a month.
Not believing that this was extortionate and knowing that I would be getting the football and hurling (and I hoped the rugby world cup too but later found out this wasn’t the case). All this happened about thirty minutes before the match kicked off. Lovely stuff.
I was relieved and excited until I found out that my computer is shite and the fastest internet in the world is useless when the wireless modem can’t cope with the live stream, or something like that (incidentally, my computer is around four years old which may have something to do with it). Anyway. I watched the drama of this match in motion and stop-motion. It seemed to be that anytime Kilkenny or Tipperary tried to do anything special that screen would pause. In the end I managed to limit the pauses by having the smallest possible screen and poorest/lowest quality image. My neutrality of course helped me not to be as heart-broken as I could have been, but it was definitely frustrating. For some reason the quality got a lot better when Kilkenny were giving their after match speech.
Next up was the epic encounter of Richard Dunne and Shay Given (a.k.a. The Republic of Ireland) versus Russia in the UEFA 2012 qualifiers from Moscow. This match had the advantage of being played late in the evening in Russian so it was reasonably accessible and was on at around midnight, or maybe a little later, compared with the recent game against Andorra where the game was on at 4.30 AM.
The Russian game was heartbreaking, to say the least. While I won’t go into the actual Irish performance – or lack of it – I will go into the quality of the viewing. Throughout the game Ireland just hoofed the ball out of their box after successive Russian attacks. Of course, I never really got a chance to see any of these attacks as the screen froze every time they happened. The suspense almost sent me to an early grave I think. All I saw was the ball being kicked out and then the Russian team attacking again only for the screen to freeze as soon as the ball was crossed into the box. The drama was enough to leave me wanting more of the drama, but definitely not more of the Irish team. Did I mention that the only live feed I could find was from some Russian television station? At least I didn’t have to listen to Dunphy and Giles.
This stop-gap sport’s viewing continued in its intensity right up throughout the Rugby World Cup, including Ireland’s epic victory over Australia and the Gaelic football final on Setanta with all of Dublin’s last minute heroics. Of course computer illiteracy didn’t help as I couldn’t connect my computer to the actual internet using one of the many Ethernet cables that seem to populate my apartment.
It wasn’t until last weekend that I eventually made it my business to go to the pub and watch the Ireland against Italy game in the Rugby World Cup. It was wonderful to see the game without any pauses and on a screen larger than an A4 sheet of paper. The surround sound worked wonders, the beer was cold and went down easily, the banter was to die for, and the shouts from the bar next door with a faster feed than the bar I was in ruined all chances of a surprise score by Ireland. What more could you ask for?
Alas, yesterday was the last day in which I will be watching a game of national significance for a while. Yes there is a very important Ireland match this week against Armenia but it will be on at 4.30 in the morning and Ireland will be playing for a draw so I can’t imagine it will be the most exciting game I will find. So I might just sleep through it – or I might set my alarm and then sleep through it. Knowing my luck it will be the best game of the year. Then there is the exciting likelihood of the heartbreak of the playoffs where Irish people are made to believe that we will qualify for a major tournament for two or three weeks, only to be brought crashing back down to reality. Such is the joy of watching Ireland compete on the world stage.
Overall, the experience has been fulfilling. I think that I have learned that it is time that I either pay for everything or learn how to do things that plenty of people around me seem to have no trouble doing. I obviously listen to my old man too much.
The most realistic option would be that I go to the pub more often. Of course, herself may object to regularly watching matches at 4.30 on Thursday morning, but then again I’ve never asked.