Off the Ball

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Off the Ball: O'Driscoll's star quality will light up the airwaves

Legendary centre embodies all that we love about sport – and why we feel so lucky to do what we do

Ger Gilroy

Published 04/06/2014|02:30

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The Off The Ball team, from left, Mick McCarthy, Cian Murtagh, Oisin Langan, Dave McIntyre, Nathan Murphy, Joe Molloy, Ger Gilroy, Adrian Barry, Colm Parkinson and Donny Mahony at the announcement of O'Driscoll's exclusive link-up with the station in Dublin yesterday
The Off The Ball team, from left, Mick McCarthy, Cian Murtagh, Oisin Langan, Dave McIntyre, Nathan Murphy, Joe Molloy, Ger Gilroy, Adrian Barry, Colm Parkinson and Donny Mahony at the announcement of O'Driscoll's exclusive link-up with the station in Dublin yesterday

The perks of our job are many. We get the best seats in the house for the big games and then, at full-time, we get to wander down and stick an unforgiving microphone under the noses of both the winners and the losers, insisting they be articulate despite the fact their hearts are still racing.

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We also have the ability to phone the most interesting sports pundits for random chats about half-baked ideas that might never make it to air.

When we get it right, we get the chance to pose good questions to some of the most interesting minds around, and, hopefully, they pause and think and give of themselves because they want to. And it all counts as work.

Thinking about sport, obsessing about ideas, tactics and psychology, preparation, coaching and administration, players and the outrageous things they do in both senses of the word, it all adds up to a large part of our show every day of the week.

Occasionally you forget that it's a really enjoyable life-affirming thing to do. Clearly if we're no good at it then we get told – and we get told a lot that our bias is simultaneously on display against whatever two teams we're talking about. Of course, we all have some bias, but generally it's declared or so irrelevant or self-evident that it doesn't diminish the conversation. The over-riding desire for everyone on the show is for it to be enjoyable to work on and listen to. Take the sport, not ourselves, seriously.

When injury ruined Brian O'Driscoll's final game on Saturday evening I wasn't joking when I tweeted that "sport is a f****r".

The notion that we can love sport and be enthralled by it and yet occasionally really resent the way it disappoints us seems counterintuitive after all I've said above.

Ultimately, though, all it means is that we care enough to be disappointed. If you want to enjoy the good times you have to be prone to feeling the sting of defeat and disappointment.

And doesn't the odd setback make you stronger? Or something...

For us the retirement of O'Driscoll means a whole new chapter in the evolution of 'Off The Ball'.

We'll get to lean on everything that made him a great player and pick his brain about staying relevant as everything around you changes – a sporting experience which has never been more applicable to the media than today.

We'll hear him ask interesting questions of interesting people and we'll get to make enjoyable radio. We'll still miss him on the field, but for us at least, and for you too, hopefully there's some consolation coming down the tracks.

Irish Independent

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