TIM FANNING MY VIEW
The demise of the Off The Ball team has seen radio go off the boil....
Irish radio has been a dull place since the Off The Ball lads said goodbye to Newstalk. Not since Today FM lost Eamon Dunphy as host of The Last Word have the airwaves been so bereft of alternative voices. Ger Gilroy and Joe Molloy, Off The Ball’s new hosts, are no mugs, but theirs is a thankless task, and they haven’t been able to recreate the repartee that made the show so enjoyable.
It’s a sign of a wider malaise across the late afternoon/early evening schedule. Early afternoon listeners are well-served by Sean Moncrieff on Newstalk and Derek Mooney on RTÉ Radio 1. The former is a consistently humorous, quirky show that stands out from the more formulaic dross, thanks mostly to its charismatic host. The latter is a more traditional beast, designed to appeal to a wider audience. But there’s a genuine enthusiasm about Derek Mooney and his co-presenters that makes it work.
Moncrieff and Mooney offer a choice; the same can’t be said after 4.30pm. We now have three drivetime shows offering the same thing. There are a few nuances: RTÉ’s Drivetime places an emphasis on hard news, while The Right Hook revolves around the gently harrumphing persona of George Hook. Today FM’s Matt Cooper is somewhere in the middle, both on the dial and in his presentention style. But while the latter’s interviewing style may be more rigorous, despite the intervening years, I still miss the ordered chaos and general disregard for objectivity of the show when Dunphy was presenting. It used to enrage people – but it also got them talking.
The presenters of the current drivetime shows have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but cumulatively, their voices have begun to sound the same. The Right Hook was fresh when it began, but the ubiquity of George Hook on both TV and radio – and the fact that he’s as well-known to members of the public for being a face of RTÉ’s rugby coverage – has turned him into an institution. We need younger voices on the radio. Not in terms of age – there are plenty of young people in the media happy to play the old fogey – but in terms of style. After all, there’s plenty of other media competing with the radio. Looking after animals for a living is many people’s dream, but the reality of life as a veterinarian involves a lot of hard work. In this new six-part series, we meet some of the students in UCD’s veterinary school – the only one in the country – as they prepare for their final examinations and the start of their careers. Not only do the budding vets have to spend hours in the library studying, they also have to work in the university’s referral hospital, treating animals with a range of maladies. In this entertaining opening episode, Martin (left) takes classmates Fiona and Sarah (centre and right) to his family farm in Co Wexford where they test what they’ve learnt in the classroom. And it’s a real eye-opener for Fiona, who’d really prefer to work with small animals.