Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

Exciting times for RTE's Sean as he heads back to his roots

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

He's just landed the biggest job in RTE Radio 1, but Sean O'Rourke is returning to his roots at Ratheniska this week when he makes his maiden voyage to the Ploughing Championships, writes Darragh McCullough

"It was a bit of a circus, totally nerve wracking, but we've had three pretty successful weeks now, and I can honestly say that it was the best thing that ever happened me," says RTE's newly ensconced presenter of their morning anchor show, Today with Sean O'Rourke.

When news broke that broadcasting supremo Pat Kenny was leaving RTE for Newstalk eight weeks ago, media speculation over who would be in line for the hot seat went into overdrive. Despite having put in 19 solid years with the State broadcaster, and fronting weekly staples such as the News at One and A Week in Politics, the bookies rated him as a 40:1 outsider

"I was actually a bit offended by that, but not enough to actually go and place a bet on myself," chuckles the 57-year-old.

"I remember getting the text to say Pat was leaving when I was at the Galway Plate. Initially I didn't give it much thought.

"But when I threw my hat in the ring and it got serious, the whole thing was sorted in less than 24 hours. By that stage it was too late to take the odds at Paddy Power – I could've been accused of insider trading!" he laughs.

Despite having covered almost every story that mattered over the last two decades, this will be first time that O'Rourke has ever visited the Ploughing Championships.

The visit will be even more significant for him, given that he spent the first five and a half years of his life living in the heart of Ratheniska.

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"My dad was the principal in the local national school and helped set up the hurling club there.

"I still meet people who would remember him as 'the master'," says O'Rourke.

However, with eight children and an ambition to get them all into university, Sean's parents moved to Galway city in the early 1960s, where he would eventually go on to study English, history and legal science at NUI Galway.

"Even though my mum was from west Cork, she had put down quite deep roots during her 13 years in Ratheniska and hated leaving.

"But there was no chance we were all going to be scholarship students and on a teacher's salary in those days the only hope was to move us all as close as possible to a third level college," says O'Rourke.

"So coming to Ploughing this year will be a particular treat for me. It's home turf for me but also my first visit because Morning Ireland always seemed to have the event cornered."

Irish Independent

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