Following Rosanna on a race to the bottom


RADIO REVIEW:GIVEN THE SENSE of deflation that descended after last weekend’s disappointing results, it was no surprise that the phones were hopping on Monday as people demanded answers about the high-profile sporting debacle.

Sure enough, the vexed question of Rosanna Davison’s performance in the Women’s Mini Marathon continued to exercise callers on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), a week after questions were first raised.

For the benefit of those who have been distracted by bagatelles such as collapsing economies, tax-dodging TDs and, yes, Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign, a hullabaloo has arisen around the former Miss World’s participation in the recent charity fun run, with doubts about Davison’s impressive race time persisting on Liveline. “It’s a story that won’t go away,” said Joe Duffy as he spoke to Carol, a runner who said she had seen Davison join the race from a side street late in the race. Carol wondered how the celebrity posted a time of 43 minutes when she herself had come in at over an hour.

Much argument ensued, but little clarity. There were confusing explanations about time discrepancies attributed to race numbers swapped between Davison and the press officer of the ISPCA, the charity the former beauty queen was running for. Noel Griffin, the ISPCA’s chief executive, was unable to explain the inconsistencies to Duffy, while dutifully standing by Davison’s statement that she had completed the course. “I hope she did run it,” he said. Now there’s a vote of confidence.

Duffy wielded the stiletto on Davison, who had declined invitations to appear on the show. “Rosanna is a good runner, by the way,” Duffy remarked to Kate, one of the race’s top performers. “Did you hear anyone say, God, Rosanna was brilliant today, did you see her flying?” The answer was no. Ouch.

Duffy also displayed his ability to imbue trivial items with import. The mini marathon, he said, was special in that every entrant runs for charity. “Now it seems this was bandwagoned by one particular charity to get photographs,” Duffy said, “and that seems unfair if it does not now stack up.” One caller, Fergal, dissented, wondering how such a topic had rumbled on for so long: “Have we had nothing better to talk about?”

“If you’ve nothing to talk about, Fergal, use your time better somewhere else,” Duffy shot back. Liveline tackles big issues – Wednesday’s show was devoted to life on social welfare – but, as the host’s tetchiness suggested, its popularity also rests on fluffy foundations.

Those seeking tales of Irish sporting success seemed better served by Stephen Roche’s interview with Matt Cooper on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays). The cyclist recalled his annus mirabilis of 1987, when he became only the second rider to win his sport’s triple crown of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Road World Championships. But anyone expecting a feelgood parable of Irish triumph was disappointed. Cooper ventured into more personal territory, quizzing his guest about the problems of retirement, the break-up of his marriage and his son’s experience of serious illness. Roche spoke openly about these difficult topics, his voice never wavering from its hypnotically even tone.

The closet thing to a wobble came when Cooper asked about his guest’s fractured relationships with journalists who have investigated doping in the sport, such as Paul Kimmage, himself a former cyclist. By going “a bit too much to town on the doping side of it”, Roche said, such journalists “kill cycling”. Cooper responded, not unreasonably, that widespread drug use was more likely to kill cycling, going on to ask if there was now a cloud over Roche’s achievements. “It doesn’t bother me in the least,” the cyclist replied, his voice suddenly sounding defiant. “The only place people talk about it is Ireland.”

It was to Cooper’s credit that he persisted with his awkward questions when the natural temptation was to boost audience morale with stirring stories of past victories. It may be only a game, but there are times when sporting achievements warrant close attention. Rosanna Davison may disagree.

Radio moment of the week

Few positives emerged from Ireland’s defeat to Croatia, but for a gleeful Tom Dunne (Newstalk, weekdays) an exception came in the form of Eamon Keegan, the Irish fan who was pictured licking the bare breast of a Croatian woman. The young man told how he had been in a Poznan square with other fans when the two Croat women passed by. “We all started chanting ‘get your you-know-whats out for the lads’, and they obliged,” he said.

“A lot of the people listening to this show would have been 20 or 30 before any kind of opportunity like that was presented to them,” said Dunne. “A very repressive country this was in its day, believe you me, Eamon, so fair play to you.”

If boorishly chanting at women to disrobe and then slobbering all over them is what counts as progress, de Valera’s Ireland doesn’t look so bad.

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