MOMENTUM was generated when John Griffin simply proved to be a willing listener. Pierce O’Reilly had a dream; Griffin, who liked the concept of Irish TV, has helped turn it into reality. A meeting at a pub in Camden Town had a significant and lasting impact on the media landscape in Ireland.
Suddenly O’Reilly’s project was able to take off. Four years later maintaining and building a sustainable relationship with the GAA is a key issue for Irish TV.
With the naming rights secured for Ruislip- a deal worth in the region of £100,000 for the London County Board- O’Reilly is thrilled to be involved at a crucial stage for the association in the United Kingdom.
“I come into this partnership with my heart and with my head,” O’Reilly said at last week’s launch. “I played inter county football and hurling for Mayo. I played football and hurling for New York. I spent three years living in New York and I saw the effort, passion, determination, and drive of players and managers. I saw what the players and supporters were doing at Gaelic Park to keep our culture, to keep our sport, to keep our heritage alive.
“They never got any recognition bar from the GAA themselves. When they’d ask other broadcasters to cover their games nobody would be interested. We saw a niche in the market. Everywhere we went in Ireland and everywhere we went around the world we saw ordinary Irish people doing something extraordinary.”
O’Reilly’s views were shared by GAA president Aogan O’Fearghail, who stressed the relevance and importance of emigrants. “I’ve just started on a three year term as president. This is one of the key areas I’m going to focus on – worldwide GAA. We have close to one million members in the GAA. Twenty per cent come from outside of Ireland. That is a huge figure and it is growing. It is growing constantly in Canada, South America, all around the globe.
“Particularly here in Britain it is strengthening. I want to thank as part of the GAA family all of you who have been here for many, many years. Those of you who have been here and been proud to be Irish. In times that weren’t easy. In times that were difficult. I want to thank and acknowledge the great work you’ve done over the years.”
O’Reilly acknowledged that this is an exciting time for Irish TV, who are anxious to increase their GAA coverage both in Ireland and throughout the world. “It is our goal to build the relationship with the GAA,” O’Reilly admitted. “We know we have something which will benefit the GAA. Not just here in the UK, but at home aswell.
“I hope that our commitment and investment in London GAA will highlight to Aogan and the powers that be in Croke Park that these guys are serious about what they are doing; that we are coming into it with the right attitude. We are also coming to it with our heart and our head.
“I’m a GAA man to the core before I’m a business man or anything else. I’ve been vice-chairman of my own club, I’ve been treasurer of my own club, I’ve been Oifigeach Gaeilge, I’ve been a County Board delegate for five years. We have to work together. We are working together now here in London. Hopefully we will be working together with Croke Park.”
Griffin’s patience and belief in Irish TV has been critical according to O’Reilly. “John Griffin has been the first and only investor in Irish TV. When I met John four years ago I told him I had an idea to set up a TV channel that would reach out to the global Irish diaspora across the world. At that stage we had one employee. Now we employ 150 people in five countries across the world. We have just opened an office in New York. Last week Irish TV was watched in 140 countries across the world, it is growing. The reason it is happened is the support, investment, trust, and belief John Griffin has put in us.”
Addison Lee founder Griffin spoke about his involvement in the venture too. “I was introduced to Pierce in a pub in Camden Town. I couldn’t believe that Irish TV hadn’t already been started. That somebody somewhere hadn’t already thought of the name. When I realised that nobody had thought of using the name I thought this had tremendous potential.
“I had sold Addison Lee for an adequate sum. This clicked for me. When Pierce was speaking I was very impressed by his enthusiasm and I was impressed by his family. There was nothing not to be impressed by.
“He was basically in the last chance saloon. There was no money left and this is a big boys game. So I listened to what he had to say. I left £50,000 on the counter. I didn’t know his surname, didn’t know where he lived. It was a typical Irish deal, however, it all came together in the end. I’m proud to be his partner. I’m very proud to be investing the money to let this company grow.”
That is what London GAA intend to do also and County Board chairman Noel O’Sullivan is encouraged by the partnership. “We have worked recently with Irish TV. They televised our county finals here last year. The feedback we got from people in Ireland was absolutely fantastic.
“Every time I go home I get people ringing me up saying they saw the great things which are happening in Ruislip. With our agreement I hope this will go on for many years. We can both work for each other.”