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Pat Stacey: John Murray is the right man for Tubridy's radio slot -- hate to say we told you so, two weeks ago

One could forgive John Murray if he was smiling broadly on his way to work this wet, miserable Thursday morning. He has got good reason to be happy. He has just landed one of the most coveted jobs in Irish radio: succeeding Ryan Tubridy in the weekday 9am-10am slot on RTE Radio 1.

As exclusively reported in the Herald earlier this month, the Morning Ireland presenter, who also hosts Radio 1's lively Saturday morning show The Business, was the RTE insiders' hot favourite to land the job from the very beginning. But it was no foregone conclusion.

Afternoon radio stalwart and National Lottery game show host Derek Mooney was also in the frame, as was the suave Craig Doyle.

But it was Murray, a 46-year-old, Tallaght-born father of two and graduate (like yours truly) of the old Rathmines School of Journalism's class of '83, who was yesterday announced as Tubridy's successor during the launch of the autumn radio schedules. The new programme, called simply The John Murray Show, begins in August and, according to RTE's publicity bumph, "will focus on broader lifestyle and entertainment items", as well as human interest stories from "beyond the newsbeat".

Murray himself added: "The challenges don't come much bigger than this but it's a challenge I take on with relish."

He's right, too; his new show will be a big challenge. If Ryan Tubridy is facing a tough call filling the shoes of his old pal Gerry Ryan on 2FM, then Murray's task is no less daunting.

He's certainly no stranger to high-profile, high-pressure live broadcasting. As regular co-anchor of Morning Ireland -- and one of its most relaxed presenters -- Murray is a key part of the most listened-to morning radio show in the country, whose grip on the audience has so far proved unassailable to its serious rivals.

Meanwhile, anyone who has listened to The Business -- where Murray's entertainingly droll and witty handling of subject matter many would normally consider a turn-off has given the show an appeal beyond the obvious listenership -- will agree that he's more than capable of bringing a light touch to his new vehicle, which is precisely what a programme wedged between Morning Ireland and Today With Pat Kenny demands.

But there's no denying that he's going to be facing pretty stiff competition, not least in the shape of the man he's succeeding. Ryan Tubridy built up a strong, solid bedrock of listeners on Radio 1. When he moves to the 9am-11am slot on 2FM in September, it's reasonable to expect that a sizeable portion of his audience will loyally follow.

When explaining, at yesterday's launch, the rationale behind reconfiguring the autumn schedules across Radio 1 and 2FM, RTE's managing director of radio, Clare Duignan, said that the emphasis had to be on "complementary scheduling". Both Murray and Tubridy will be hoping that, come the autumn, the complementary doesn't translate into the competitive.

In the meantime, we wish John Murray well. His appointment is a satisfyingly fresh one from an organisation not noted for taking many risks. It's going to be an interesting autumn on the airwaves.


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