Monday 22 April 2019

Radio: The Game is over but life goes on for grateful Michael


RTE's Michael Lyster. Photo: Gerry Mooney
RTE's Michael Lyster. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

"I should have died that evening," Michael Lyster said, recalling a major cardiac arrest suffered in 2015. "But I got away with it."

He was appearing on Today with Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 10am), to mark the fact that this week the affable Galway man presented his last Sunday Game. After 34 years, he's stepping down.

Normally I get annoyed at this RTÉ in-house promotion of other shows, but in this case we'll happily make an exception. Lyster is a bit of a broadcasting legend, in a low-key sort of way; both show and man are Irish institutions at this stage.

O'Rourke, just returned from the usual lengthy summer holidays of RTÉ staffers, reminded Lyster that they first met when Limerick were last (until this year) All-Ireland hurling champions: in 1973, "at the press bench at Galway District Court".

They mostly reminisced on Michael's time at the Sunday Game helm, though of course the heart attack loomed large. "There is no day in my life," he admitted, "that at some point, this event doesn't strike me again, even if it's only for a few seconds… But you have to get on with life."

There's even the possibility, Lyster added with a chuckle, of him going back rally-driving. "Every year (in this job), and every day, has been a good one. This has been something special. The GAA and The Sunday Game means so much to people," he concluded.

A legend of a different stripe, Flann O'Brien, was the subject on Bowman: Sunday (Radio 1, 8.30am). The show touched on different aspects of Flann's life in mid-20th century Dublin: working (and then not working) for the Civil Service; the way he "hid" behind alternate personae and noms-de-plume; the legendary pub crawl he instigated with Patrick Kavanagh and others to honour the 50th anniversary of Bloomsday.

Fascinating stuff for Flann devotees, although it's a funny thing: knowing the details of someone's life - seeing behind the words, as it were - often diminishes them. I'm in awe of Flann the iconoclastic author; but Brian O'Nolan, the real person, came across as a sad, frustrated and quite strange man.

We won't use that description as a cheap intro to the upcoming visit of Donald Trump to Ireland - really. The US President won't be here till November and already the airwaves are hopping.

The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 4pm) hosted a debate between Green TD Eamon Ryan, organising a "Say Nope to the Dope" protest, and professional curmudgeon, the pro-Trump George Hook. Meanwhile, Lunchtime Live (Newstalk, Mon-Fri noon) delivered a raft of listener calls and texts - both pro and anti, the former to a degree that surprised me.

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