GRASSROOTS MARTIN KIELY with DAMIAN LAWLOR IN 12 years' broadcasting, RTE radio reporter Martin Kiely has witnessed many priceless moments and during half-time of last Sunday's Tipp-Limerick game, another was at hand.
Selector John Leahy was in the midst of analysing Tipp's first half performance when he noticed referee Michael Haverty in the background. During the interview, the Tipp man stepped away from Kiely's questioning for a fleeting moment and had a word in Haverty's ear: "Jaysus ref," he said, "all we're fecking looking for is fair play!" before seamlessly turning around to finish his interview. It was classic stuff; the whole lot went out live on air.
At the end of the game, Babs Keating spoke about old time values and revealed that his team went to Mass in the Cathedral that morning. Sideline interviews can often make for the best material.
"That's why this job's so good," Kiely says. "I get a great insight being so close, the interviews are raw and passionate."
But it's a demanding position, once the final whistle blows. Delighted managers and players want to dance in celebration together and don't want to be tied up with a journalist. The losing camp simply seeks the sanctuary of the dressing-room. For them, the sight of Kiely lingering must be like a traffic warden clamping your car just moments after the guards have caught you without tax.Still, such is his reputation that he has long since gained the trust of the top personalities and continues to provide some of the most colourful interviews.
After last year's pulsating win over Tipperary, Kiely quizzed Galway selector Pearse Piggott live on air. "And what do you say to all those doubting Thomases now, Pearse?" he asked. "F**k the begrudgers," Piggott replied without even noticing what he had said. Kiely laughs loudly at the memory. "Pearse spent about six months apologising," he says. "It was a passionate reply and demonstrated how caught up we all get."
The RTE man always arrives early for games. Before last weekend's match, he visited Redser O'Grady's house to check out the infamous goalposts and shooting targets in the Tipp captain's garden. "Listeners would appreciate a bit of a description like that, so it's up to me to provide one," Kiely says.
A six-time All-Ireland handball champion and former Toomevara hurling trainer, his working day starts at 6.30am each Sunday. He goes for a run before scanning the papers and finalising the research gathered during the week. "If players train all year, I can at least prepare well too," he insists.
Once at the stadium, he meets commentators Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Brian Carthy and the RTE OB unit. "Just to ensure we're singing off the same hymn sheet. I usually do interviews throughout the day and liaise with the producer. At this stage, most managers know me and no one has lost the cool yet. People like Brian Cody, Mick O'Dwyer and Liam Kearns are excellent; I found Páidí (Ó Sé) a bit difficult but most are top class."
For Thurles games, he calls to Michael Cleary's shop in Nenagh on the way; the two have frequently co-commentated on games, and he stops at the Templemore Arms on the way home. Last Sunday, he had a great chat with Eoin Kelly and Mícheál Webster's parents and admits that's the best part of the job. "Meeting new people and gaining new sources, it's fantastic," he says.
Today's Kerry/Waterford gig may be as enticing as a gift voucher to the dentist but Kiely will be prancing along the sideline, mike in hand. Ready for action.