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Terry Prone: Dunphy, the greatest self-publicist of them all

Eamon Dunphy has re-invented himself more often than Madonna.

From footballer to journalist to broadcaster to (superb) biographer, the man has proved he can do it. Whatever it is, he can do it.

More to the point, he's proven that he can attract attention to himself while making the transition from one career to the next in a long line.

Now, he has done a TV interview with TV3's Ursula Halligan, in which he's mined another aspect of his varied past: his first marriage.

It was tough, he says. Tough to be newly married when he was an ex-footballer with no money and no capacity to go on the dole.

One weekend, they had to borrow money from friends for food.

This pressure, together with others, caused the marriage to "fizzle out," although they're still pals.

If you're interested in Dunphy, the interview will open up new aspects of the man for your delectation.

Even if you're not interested in the commentator, it proves one point about modern media-saturated Ireland: as long as you keep talking, as long as you keep appearing, aspects of your life which, in the past, would have consigned you to shamed obscurity become, instead, the tools of personal re-invention.

Suspension

Thirty years ago, if a commentator had arrived in RTE wobbly and incoherent with drink, he would never have been employed by the station again.

But in today's ratings-driven context, all that happened when Eamon turned up to do a TV gig having, according to his own account, had a few drinks, no sleep and being in no condition to fulfil his contract, was a temporary suspension.

Someone who provides great excitement surrounding a football match isn't just easy to forgive -- they're arguably more interesting because of the possibility that they may turn up again the worse for alcoholic wear.

In the same way, the public might find it difficult to forgive an ordinary Joe Soap for being caught three times drunk behind the wheel of a car, endangering other drivers, pedestrians and himself.

Forgiving Dunphy proved a lot easier, helped by the fact that he describes it as "seriously wrong" and indicates that he learned from his mistakes.

"That was the thing that copped me on," he says in the Halligan interview. "I realised then that I'd been a bad guy and it wasn't funny any more."

But, of course, he has an explanation for his dark side. It's late adolescence. He couldn't do drink, drugs or gambling when he was a kid because he was at work from the age of 13.

"Then I went to football, didn't drink at all apart from a glass of lager until I was 35," he said.

"I didn't do the stuff that you do in you late teens and early 20s."

If contemporary reports are anything to go by, he had a delayed adolescence on steroids.

By his own admission, it was fuelled by alcohol, cannabis and coke, although he famously claimed that it was impossible to get good coke in Dublin.

Now that he has re-married (to the impressively able Jane Gogan) it is time for the latest edition of Dunphy: reflective; self-exculpatory; emotional about his past and present relationships.

Ferocity

Halligan, throttling back on the in-your-face ferocity she brings to news interviews, helps him find the last few undiscovered aspects of himself. On screen. With the inevitable follow-on coverage.

He's never failed to play Irish media and public with exactly the right note at exactly the right time.

Eamon Dunphy. Not a good self-publicist. A great self-publicist.


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