George Byrne: Who's big enough to fill Gerry Ryan's shoes?

How to follow Irish broadcasting's biggest act is a crisis facing 2fm and the few choices can be whittled to one

George Byrne

It's been a very strange ten days on 2fm. The sad and premature passing of Gerry Ryan naturally inspired several tribute programmes and the broadcast of his funeral Mass was a fine, final touch.

But as the tributes stop, who's going to fill Gerry's massive shoes.


Whether or not you were a regular devotee of Gerry Ryan's show -- and many of us, myself included, could dip in and then stay out over a period of months or even years -- there's absolutely no denying that he did command the attention of the nation.

More than 200,000 listeners a day tuned into what Bono described as "the leader of our country for three hours in the morning" and that will be an extremely difficult act to follow.

Replacing like with like certainly isn't an option given that there was no-one like Gerry. For another broadcaster to even attempt to mimic his style would be sheer madness.

Extending the breakfast show by an hour and trimming the main morning programme to two hours is obviously an option, but that then presents the nation with the appalling prospect of having to suffer the dribbling inanities of Colm Hayes and Jim-Jim (so bad they named him twice) for an additional 60 minutes every day. Nein danke to that one.

For now Colm Hayes and Lucy Kennedy are filling Gerry's slot on a temporary basis.

It's hard to see this being a long term scenario.

Gerry's good friend and colleague Dave Fanning has been mentioned as a contender to fill the slot, but it's hard to see him actually even wanting the gig -- given how it's so associated with his late pal.

There's also Ryan Tubridy.

He was a success on the 2fm breakfast slot and moving him to Radio One was a strange decision at the time.

But does the old fogey and Blackrock College boy have Gerry's common touch and affinity with the plain folk of Ireland? Would he be comfortable chating to Noirin from Nenagh about her haunted hay shed and make it convincing radio? Gerry was but Ryan? Unlikely.

Furthermore, does Ryan want to move from his pretty cushy 50 minute a morning slot to three hours of live radio everyday. Again unlikely.

So Ryan moving over from Radio 1 doesn't look like a runner at all.

Outside of RTE there are two pretty strong contenders.

How about Tom Dunne on Newstalk.

He's got the common touch and produces highly entertaining radio.

Then there's Ray D'Arcy who has built up an audience of more than 200,000 listeners, has worked well for RTE in the past -- hosting The Den, and the Rose of Tralee -- and is definitely maturing as a radio broadcaster.


His style is sufficiently different from Gerry's so as to avoid comparisons but he has an affinity with his listeners which certainly appeals to advertisers, a factor which will count hugely when the 2fm bean-counters sit down to decide who succeeds their most important asset.

With the added bonus of a return to TV work then D'Arcy would seem to be the logical choice.

And, given his form, he'd be more than up to the task.