The demise of the Off The Ball team has seen ra­dio go off the boil....

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

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.

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