RYAN Tubridy's radio honeymoon ended today with an extraordinary attack on the presenter by rival Ian Dempsey.
Tubridy had been "cushioned" up to now by RTE and he doubted whether he could fill Gerry Ryan's shoes, Dempsey said.
Tubridy would now finally have to prove himself -- because he would no longer be gifted an audience from Morning Ireland, the Today FM host claimed.
Tubridy's RTE colleague Pat Kenny seemed to echo the comments, saying: "Ian made a valid point."
"There is a certain unknown about Ryan's performances while supported by the two established vehicles of Morning Ireland and my programme," Pat added.
The station itself however jumped to the "young fogey's" defence.
Dempsey (49), who also reckons Gerry Ryan was a better communicator than Gay Byrne, said Tubridy has been "cushioned" by RTE so far.
He told Hot Press magazine Tubridy had "Morning Ireland handing him a huge audience, he's been leading up to another huge audience from Pat Kenny, so he's been kind of cushioned".
The Today FM star said Tubridy is now "exposed" in his new slot on 2fm, referring to his 37-year-old rival as part of the RTE establishment.
"He did the breakfast show before and he was the only one that really threatened us. But I think he was very fresh at the time and people were saying, 'Hey, who's this guy?' Whereas now he's an established part of the institution that is RTE," Dempsey said.
He added Tubridy needs a team behind him "to come up with the ideas and keep the show fresh", while also saying he is a "total professional" and "able to carry it".
Separately Pat Kenny told the Herald that in some people's eyes Tubridy still has to demonstrate he is "up there" as an equal with Gay Byrne and the late Gerry Ryan. But Montrose bosses have made it clear that they are not intimidated by Ian Dempsey's comments.
The state broadcaster said that they are extremely proud of their new line up and was not surprised that rival station Today FM would be "worried" about the shake up.
An RTE spokesperson told the Herald this morning: "It's understandable that Ian Dempsey and Today FM would be worried about the new 2fm morning schedule.
"With Hector at 7, Ryan at 9 and Colm at 11, we have a really strong and exciting alternative for morning listeners."
The Herald understands that Tubridy is aware of Dempsey's comments, however, he did not reply to requests for comment this morning.
Dempsey thinks Gerry Ryan (53) was "probably the greatest communicator we've ever had, with all respect to Gaybo".
Gerry "was able to do it spontaneously", whereas Gaybo (76) rehearsed more.
"Gay Byrne came in at 7.30am, or maybe earlier and went through everything, rehearsed, and wrote his interviews, and almost wrote the answers that people would be likely to say.
"So Gaybo was very prepared, whereas Gerry could go for it on a wing and a prayer, and he was well able to articulate whatever he wanted," Dempsey said.
He is unsure how his direct rival Hector O hEochaghain will work out, admitting it "could be a disaster".
"He could be extremely lucky and it could just click for him, or it could be a disaster. And he's got a lot of other commitments, so I don't know how regularly he's going to be able to do it," Dempsey said.
He also spoke about his relationship with Gerry Ryan.
"When I went into RTE he gave me that famous letter -- that I've still got at home -- saying, 'Welcome to RTE Radio 2, I wish you the best of luck', and so on, and at the end it says 'just remember, you can't say b*****ks on the radio'.
"He was being friendly. We went out many times together, and went home late, and went to Some Like It Hot and Abrakebabra together, and things like that. We got along extremely well."
He told the magazine, which hit the shelves today, he was at the new Aviva Stadium recently and "Gerry would always have been there".
"And he'd always come over and join us. And we were there and you could feel that something was missing," Dempsey added.
Even former Xposé presenter Lorraine Keane doesn't escape.
"If she had taken six deep breaths -- like my father always told me to do -- and walked out of the room for a while and came back in, she'd probably still be working at TV3," he said.