PREPARATIONS for Ryan Tubridy's surprise 2fm debut yesterday were kept so secret that even the guests were in the dark.
Tubridy was due to take over the flagship programme vacated by the late Gerry Ryan from this Monday. But the 36-year-old and his team surprised listeners and colleagues by going on-air yesterday after 9am.
The pre-emptive strike had been planned weeks in advance, but was a closely guarded secret.
Producer Alice O'Sullivan said: "It was a huge challenge setting up a radio launch in secret. All the contributors, including Oliver Callan of 'Knob Nation' thought it was just a rehearsal. They found out at 9am like everybody else that we were live. Not even our colleagues in 2fm knew about it. Ryan was fantastic and hit the ground running."
Tubridy described the surprise 2fm radio debut as a statement of intent. "This sends out a message this isn't business as usual. Don't expect the same thing all the time. When someone suggested doing this, the madness of the idea made great sense." However, the new programme had begun in familiar fashion with a review of that morning's newspapers, in the style of the previous 'Gerry Ryan Show'. Tubridy revealed that the loss of his close friend, who died in April, was also the reason for the low-key opening to the new programme.
"If Gerry had been at home listening, well I would have bounced on with more verve. I didn't, because I was acutely aware of where I was going, and where I was sitting, and most importantly, who I was replacing," said Tubridy.
Early in the programme, Tubridy had again paid tribute to Ryan, telling listeners how he had mistaken passers-by in the street for his late friend.
"People say that happens when someone close to you passes -- you see people that look like them and you get a fright. It was strange because I hadn't planned to tell the listeners that, it just came out on air. This is something I want to do more: to say things I'd never say on radio before -- because I feel this is a different kind of show."
But if Tubridy felt Ryan wasn't joining him on air, he did have another one of Gerry's pals dialling in. Bono was calling from Helsinki, Finland, where U2 are on tour. Tubridy revealed that the phone interview had been arranged over a chat in their native Dalkey.
"I had never spoken to Bono before this summer when we met in the pub and had a pint. Maybe that helped, but I'm also sure the call was made as much for Gerry Ryan as for me.
"Gerry was Bono's friend and Bono knew I was Gerry's friend. It was a triangle. He came on air and wished me well.
"I was very impressed he took the call, given he has a sore back and was in his hotel bed in Helsinki with a gig to do tonight."
And Tubridy promised to ask pop manager Louis Walsh to be a guest on the show, despite Walsh's claims that RTE should be "sold off" and staff "sacked".
"It's like that time John Prescott punched the guy who threw an egg at him.
"They asked Tony Blair about it and he just said ' John is John'. I would offer, 'Louis is Louis'. At the next launch Louis will be saying RTE is great," said Tubridy.