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'We're like the sh*ttest A-team ever' - TV's most unlikely pairing, Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea

Behind the constant banter, there's a genuine, warm friendship between unlikely comedy duo Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea - who are back for a second series of their RTÉ TV show - as Tanya Sweeney finds out on an unusually entertaining Zoom call

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On the road again: Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea. Photo: Kip Carroll

On the road again: Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea. Photo: Kip Carroll

All smiles: Marty in his shed

All smiles: Marty in his shed

Marty with Bernard on the set of their new show

Marty with Bernard on the set of their new show

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On the road again: Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea. Photo: Kip Carroll

Marty Morrissey may be many great things - affable, witty, popular, a national treasure - but we've finally found a chink in his armour. His punctuality leaves plenty to be desired, even when the meeting essentially takes place at the bottom of the garden.

"About f***ing time!" Bernard O'Shea yells, like a man who has done more than his fair share of waiting around for Marty Morrissey, when the man himself finally makes it to our Zoom meeting. "Honestly, he's the worst timekeeper."

Marty laughs off the accusation - no doubt he's heard it before. "I'm just here to rescue you from the sermon according to St Bernard," he shoots back.

Now, it's just a matter of getting Bernard's video to work ("Don't tell him how!" Marty yells).

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All smiles: Marty in his shed

All smiles: Marty in his shed

All smiles: Marty in his shed

Bernard's in a room in his Dublin home, seeking space away from his wife, Lorna, and young children, Tadhg, Olivia and Sean. In addition to writing his second book ("about having a midlife crisis without realising you're having a midlife crisis"), he is up at 6am every morning with the kids.

"The wife works at home at the minute, and the broadband is so bad that if you Skype, the telly drops off and they go mad downstairs 'cos they can't watch Netflix," he laughs. "I'll be honest, for the first two weeks, like most families with small kids, it was a bit like a holiday at home. You don't get that sort of time with them that you normally would. Besides, they're small so they want to be with us at home. I have the utmost sympathy for parents with teenage kids. No way in the wild earthly f***ing world would I have stayed with my parents in the house."

Over in sunny Quilty in Co Clare, Marty is staying with his mother, Peggy, and attempting to keep her indoors. This afternoon, he has repaired from the family house to a roomy wooden shed in the garden: with a caricature of himself on the wall and a slew of photos of Marty with friends, it makes for quite the man-cave.

"He only got the shed because of Claire Byrne," Bernard jibes.

"I'm trying to keep an eye on my mother, and it's quite challenging," Marty reveals. "She thinks there's nothing wrong in the world and is mad for the road. I'm trying to hold her back, and it's not easy, especially when her friend Margaret is cocooning and won't come out to play."

One question has to be asked: how easy is it to upkeep an image as singular as Marty Morrissey's while you are in lockdown? "It's very difficult," Marty notes with faux- concern. "I'm struggling. Ah no, I'm doing okay so far but… there may be difficulty down the road." The two erupt into easy laughter; a constant, hearty sound.

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Marty with Bernard on the set of their new show

Marty with Bernard on the set of their new show

Marty with Bernard on the set of their new show

Both have been keeping in touch with daily phone calls at 6.30pm: "We could have a show called That's Not What I Heard from Such and Such'," quips Bernard.

"I mean, when you get heavy-breathing phone calls at three in the morning and you're bombarded with emails and texts, you just get to know his pattern of behaviour," Marty adds.

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We're all getting to grips with the new, digital way of doing things during the Covid crisis, and once we're all in a Zoom meeting together, it's simply a question of sitting back and letting Marty and Bernard do their thing. It's a brilliantly childish, but fun, back-and-forth. There are accusations (entirely facetious, of course) of dogging. Talk of conspiracy theories. Someone gets called a total prima donna. Behind it all, though, there's a genuine friendship.

O'Shea and Morrissey are an unlikely, yet wholly naturally fitting, pair. For years, they exchanged no more than pleasantries in the corridors of Montrose. Morrissey was one of RTÉ's best-known sports commentators, while O'Shea was a presenter on 2FM's Breakfast Republic along with Keith Walsh and Jennifer Zamparelli. With the former in the sports department and the latter making waves in comedy, it could easily have been a case of never the twain meeting, but it was during 2018's Dancing with the Stars that the pair really bonded. As the two 'novelty' dancers, they naturally gravitated toward each other.

"There were five lads and six girls, and if you look at us two culchies - he's from Durrow and I'm from Clare - we're coming from different backgrounds and do different things, but we found we had great fun right away," recalls Marty.

"Plus, I love the GAA and I love my county. Now, we talk every day on the phone, and he's one of my best friends," adds Bernard.

Bigwigs at the station clearly saw something in this fledgling bromance, too. Last year, the two jetted to New York for Marty & Bernard's Big Adventure. The premise of the show was to transport the pair to Morrissey's birthplace of New York and let them loose in the city, ostensibly to explore the concept of modern masculinity. It paved the way for the duo to test out their survival skills onscreen, and to tackle Botox, male skincare and couture fashion.

For O'Shea, such hi-jinks have long been part of the terrain. It was relatively new ground for Morrissey, the sports stalwart. In any case, it all worked, and they are back with a second series, Marty & Bernard on the Road Again.

2019 seemed to be a plum year for RTÉ stars travelling to far-flung destinations in the name of good TV. Dermot Bannon found himself in Australia for Incredible Homes, while Bláthnaid Treacy repaired to Copenhagen for Now You See Me. With RTÉ's purse strings seemingly tied tighter than ever, is the era of the foreign jolly over?

Bernard baulks at the idea of Marty & Bernard's Big Adventure being any kind of doss. "Everyone thinks that when you go away, but the thing is, your budgets get completely squeezed," he says.

"We landed into the airport [in New York] at 6am and began filming at 6.30am. We had two days to do it all. Now, don't get me wrong, we're not mining for blood diamonds or anything, but you're on the go all day. You hear it from the travel-programme people all the time. 'You must have had a great time.' No, actually it's miserable."

The second series sees a distinct change of pace, and now the pair are moving from the Bronx to Ballybough in Dublin's North Inner City (where they meet GAA for Mas, a highly entertaining group of GAA-playing women from the local area).

For Marty & Bernard on the Road Again, the two meet ordinary people from local communities doing remarkable things. In a sort of 'what could possibly go wrong?' kind of way, Morrissey and O'Shea set up a different challenge for themselves each week in order to fundraise for each group.

Both receive countless emails from the public and decided to put their heaving inboxes to good use for a new series.

With public attention moving away from celebrities towards the ordinary people doing remarkable things in communities, the show's premise feels rather prescient. It's merely a quirk of fate that sees the show hit upon the current mood.

"I can't speak for Marty Morrissey, but for me, it's like, 'Here's an eejit falling over: that might take your mind off what's going on," says Bernard. "It was a little bit of local escapism. I just hope people will find this a bit of fun."

"On the first [series], Bernard was the one that said, 'I'd love to do something with you,' and here, we just wanted to highlight the communities and what people do on a volunteer basis," Marty explains.

As to why the pairing works so well, Bernard notes: "I always say this to Marty Morrissey: I'm like a professional sidekick. When I started doing comedy and realised there was such a thing as the straight man and the funny man, and even when I worked with Jennifer [Zamparelli, on Breakfast Republic], I was the sidekick. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but I've no problem not doing or saying anything if I don't have to."

"Which is very, very seldom," interjects Marty.

"Marty does a lot of the heavy lifting," Bernard adds. "It's essentially Marty, and I'm the little bit of sauce. People ask, 'What way do you work it?' and honestly, we don't. We're like the sh*ttest A-Team ever.

"It's amazing, no matter where you go with Marty Morrissey, you're going to have a crowd regardless," Bernard adds.

"We could be in Kilrush or Ballybough or wherever, and the whole community comes out and is just looking at Marty. He's like a social magnet. And no matter where you are with him, he's never, ever in a bad mood."

"I hire them out, Tanya," Morrissey assures me - although he concedes that, yes, he is recognised pretty much everywhere.

"You might be in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and think, 'No one will know me here,'" he admits. "I was in Cardiff with [broadcaster] Ryle Nugent for the England/Wales game, and he said, 'Surely no one in Cardiff knows you', but we came across these lads from Tullamore."

It's certainly part of Marty's evergreen appeal: he is unflappable (one journalist described him as "heroically unflappable"), genial and at ease in all kinds of company, even if he fails to blend into the crowd.

Honestly, though, how does it feel to be recognised everywhere he goes?

"I do appreciate it," Marty reflects. "The fact that people stop you and say hello or take a selfie, I take it as a compliment."

"The one thing I will say about Marty is that he could have easily stayed with what he was doing [in RTÉ Sport] and just been the most popular man in Ireland, but sometimes you have to take the risk," Bernard interjects.

Even with their new show about to hit Irish screens, and Marty getting ready to host a four-part celebrity chat series, the ingeniously titled Marty in the Shed (which starts on May 10), the sports commentator is looking at a very different, and much quieter, summer than usual. The GAA season is effectively on ice for now, while usual summer gigs like reporting from Bloom or the Ploughing Championships are unlikely to go ahead.

If RTÉ look set to encounter more fiscal strain on account of the coronavirus crisis, Marty isn't particularly concerned. "Oh, my jersey says 'RTÉ'," he says. "They've been very good employers. I'm proud of them, to be honest, especially our current affairs and news departments - they've been outstanding. And I've been busy enough, to be honest."

O'Shea, meanwhile, had expected to have a quiet year to write his book but has seen his Instagram following double to nearly 60,000 followers in recent weeks, after posting comedy sketches to his feed.

As to what their plans are when life eventually returns to a semblance of normality, Bernard says he'll return to his office in town ("my man-cave") and, he adds gleefully, go for "coffee, then a load of pints".

Marty has made an equally enthusiastic plan to "go straight to Copperface Jacks and boogie the night away", doing an energetic chair dance to prove his point.

"I wouldn't be a big man for pubs, particularly after midnight, and especially when people will just jump on you to get to Marty," says Bernard.

"I just get him to part the waves and say, 'Bernard, let them come to me,'" laughs Marty.

"I don't drink, but I'm always the very last one out of the pub. I just love the sing-song, and being part of the chorus. Life is short - all you can do is make the most of it."


'Marty & Bernard on the Road Again' airs on RTÉ One from May 13 at 9.35pm



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