Michael O'Doherty: 'He's starting a new role on a new network, but Pat Kenny's ego is utterly admonished'
Today is D-Day for Pat Kenny and UTV Ireland - because nine months after he was first announced as the star of the new station we are finally going to see Pat Kenny in the Round.
It's the day that we'll find out whether Pat Kenny is as popular and skilled a broadcaster as many people would believe. With one of that fan club being, it seems, Pat himself.
In an interview with the RTE Guide last week, Pat's self-confidence shows no signs of having abated since his sensational departure from the station.
"It will be hanging on me rather than any RTE brand loyalty," he explained in a quote which suggests two things. Firstly, you will note that Pat has managed to get his own name into the title, something that even Gay Byrne couldn't do on the Late Late.
Pat is obviously happy with this set-up, content with the suggestion that it will be his powers as an interviewer upon which the show will sail or flounder. It's possibly just as well, as the names mentioned so far as his conversational foils - Mickey Harte, Chris Hadfield and, most bizarrely of all, Lulu - are hardly enough in themselves to have the crowds tuning in.
Secondly, while it is brave of Pat to nail his colours to the mast, is it just me or is he perhaps getting his excuses in early, talking up the brand loyalty to RTE, and implicitly stating that if people don't tune into his UTV Ireland show, it will be because the station doesn't have the same "loyal" following?
Amidst all these questions, Pat Kenny may have changed employers, but his ego is utterly undiminished.
"It had been indicated to me by RTE that I might do TV on RTE again," Pat revealed to the Guide. "There would have to be 'a cleansing period' following the, if you like, 'scandal' of my leaving ... The corporation was wounded by my departure and a little time has to elapse before the wound heals."
Implicit in Pat's comments are that RTE did not foresee his resignation as a result of axing Frontline, having done so they have come to regret it, and cannot wait to have him back, something which seems a tad smug of Pat to claim, especially when figures would suggest that they are not missing him that much.
Claire Byrne is doing an admirable job in his place on TV, and as regards his radio show, Pat has failed to make the inroads that both he and Newstalk would have expected him to. Eighteen months on, his show has stagnated at 142,000 listeners, less than half of what the considerably lower-key Sean O'Rourke is pulling in on RTE1.
This may be down to "brand loyalty" as Pat implies, but it may also, just perhaps, be a reflection that Pat is not the box office that RTE's rivals, and perhaps even Pat, think that he is.
All of which suggests that Pat Kenny in the Round has a struggle on its hands.
While Newstalk already had a healthy following when Pat joined, UTV Ireland's viewership figures border on the infantesmile, and it will take something quite spectacular to get middle Ireland to tune into it for anything other than Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
Somehow, I don't see Pat chatting to Lulu falling into that category.