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Darragh McManus on radio: RTÉ sports shows have no excuse for leaving field of play



‘Game On’ presented by Marie Crowe, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ruby Walsh on 2FM’. Photo: Andres Poveda

‘Game On’ presented by Marie Crowe, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ruby Walsh on 2FM’. Photo: Andres Poveda

Andres Poveda

‘Game On’ presented by Marie Crowe, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ruby Walsh on 2FM’. Photo: Andres Poveda

Has RTÉ Radio 1's sports department basically given up the ghost? Before Covid-19, they ran four or five hours each day at weekends on Saturday/Sunday Sport. Sometimes this ran into six, seven or eight hours, if a big match was being covered live.

These days, however, Saturday Sport seems to have disappeared off the radar entirely, while the Sunday edition is limited to two hours. In stark contrast, Off the Ball (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 1pm) still broadcasts for three hours every weeknight, and four each weekend afternoon. Within RTÉ, over on 2FM, Game On continues to air its usual hour at 6pm Monday to Friday.

So why not Saturday/Sunday Sport? I appreciate that - obviously - there's far less action to cover at the moment. But it hasn't stopped Off the Ball or Game On who, with a bit of imagination and outside-the-box thinking, manage to rustle up some interesting, entertaining content.

Perhaps the worst thing about Radio 1's sporting shutdown is that those several hours have been replaced by RTÉ Gold - the kind of classic hits you've heard a million times already.

Note: there's nothing wrong with old songs, or the good people presenting them. Indeed, I listen to the station specifically devoted to them, handily enough named Classic Hits, for that very reason. I partly agree that there's too much sport on radio during "normal" times too.

But it's the principle of the thing. It's lazy, just because action is on hold, to go off-air and throw on four hours of Supertramp and Bruce Hornsby.

The second-worst thing is that RTÉ radio's archives are stuffed with brilliant material, sporting and otherwise. Why not root out classic commentary clips or interviews? Alternatively, gather some journalists on the phone and have a row about which is the worst team to win the All-Ireland, or a rundown of the most controversial cheating scandals. The world is your oyster. A classic hits playlist is not good enough.

Evelyn Grant's Weekend Drive (Lyric, Sat-Sun 4pm), on the other hand, is a reliably lovely thing. Especially good at the moment is the 'Musical Migrations' slot running every Sunday. A few years back, Evelyn made a documentary about Irish musicians earning a living abroad; here she flips that on its head by meeting some foreign musicians who now ply their trade in Ireland.

Over the last few weeks she's spoken to hugely talented folks from places as diverse as Spain, Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and England who have carved out careers as soloists, joined ensembles, set up music academies and chamber orchestras, become teachers and generally made massive contributions to our cultural life. Wonderful people and a wonderful show.

Indo Review