Radio: Marty Morrissey takes the middle-of-the-road route to radio stardom
The sports presenter brings a new degree of inanity to the ‘Mooney’ slot on RTÉ, but Tom Dunne’s move to night time has helped the Newstalk presenter find his rock ’n’ roll voice again
Easygoing: Marty Morrissey celebrates with Clare hurlers Conor Ryan and Colin Ryan at September’s All-Ireland final replay. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The GAA has produced many unlikely heroes, seemingly ordinary men who have unexpectedly captured the public imagination through their feats in the sporting arena. A recent example of this phenomenon was to be found on Monday, when Marty Morrissey, standing in on Mooney (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), spoke to Shane O’Donnell, the 19-year-old Clare hurler who memorably bagged a hat-trick of goals in last month’s All-Ireland replay. Listening to the conversation, one marvelled that Morrissey, a mildly diverting GAA reporter and commentator, had ended up presenting a daytime show on national radio.
Mooney’s afternoon programme has long been the fluffy pillow between the austere futons of Liveline and Drivetime, but Morrissey brought a new degree of inanity to proceedings. Having introduced O’Donnell as a “national heart-throb”, the host conducted most of the interview in a similar vein, calling his guest “the Justin Bieber of hurling” and asking whether he had been tempted by offers of modelling and singing jobs. O’Donnell responded with the self-effacing taciturnity of a young sportsperson.
The presenter was possibly tailoring his shtick for the slot, playing up the cosily coy sauciness that Derek Mooney and his on-air team frequently trade in: Brenda Donohue’s remark that O’Donnell was “bringing out the cougar in me” was indicative of the spirit of the item.
Even more tiresome was the allusion to Morrissey’s supposed status as a sex symbol for the ICA set, a reputation that largely rests on impersonations by the comedians Oliver Callan and Mario Rosenstock.
His afternoon stint yielded the odd engaging item, such as the discussion with Jeffrey Kallen of Trinity College Dublin about the changing Irish accent. There were nuggets about how our way of speaking English was influenced by our location between Britain and the US, and how the word “like” came to be used as a conversational punctuation mark.
But Morrissey sounded more excited by his guest’s Irish accent, which bore little trace of his American origins. As he finished the item, Morrissey ostentatiously donned the mantle of national spokesman, saying that Kallen was “most welcome” in Ireland. When he remembered that his guest had been here since 1976, he generously stated that “you’re one of us”. For a man who boasted of seeing “many All-Irelands up close and personal”, Morrissey appeared curiously blinkered about the changing nature of Irish identity. His rise from cult sports reporter to mainstream RTÉ star suggests that some Montrose mandarins have a blind spot of their own.
Over on Newstalk, the trajectory of Tom Dunne’s career might seem to be going in the opposite direction. Having been bumped from his 10am slot to make room for Pat Kenny, the presenter now takes his place behind the microphone a disheartening 12 hours later. But what the late-night position of The Tom Dunne Show (Monday to Thursday) lacks in audience potential it made up for last week in enjoyment.
The remit for the new programme is more circumscribed, concentrating on music, television, film and other media subjects at the expense of the human-interest items that dominated much of his morning berth. But rather than rob the programme of appeal, the rejigged format has allowed Dunne to reassert his enthusiasms. On Tuesday he reacted to the death of the singer, songwriter and guitarist Phil Chevron with a tribute that reflected the presenter’s musical background.
Chevron’s time in The Pogues was covered, but Dunne was more interested in his first band, the influential but often overlooked Radiators from Space. Pete Holidai and Steve Averill, bandmates from that early punk era, spoke evocatively of their friend’s musical adventurousness, while an audibly moved Christy Moore testified to his courage while ill. Whether discussing Ghostown, the Radiators’ elegiac musical portrait of Dublin, or Under Clery’s Clock, Chevron’s poignant vignette about being gay in a repressive Ireland, Dunne combined knowledge with easy accessibility to highlight why the late musician was so highly regarded and deeply loved.
Even when things didn’t come together so seamlessly, the show was stimulating. A chat with the Primal Scream frontman, Bobby Gillespie, was initially awkward; gradually, however, a tentative rapport emerged. Having described himself as “one of the guys who took drugs” in his band, Gillespie explained why he wasn’t interested in Breaking Bad, the much-lauded series about a chemistry teacher turned narcotics kingpin. “I used to take crystal meth,” Gillespie casually remarked, “so it’s third- or fourth-hand to me.”
Throughout, Dunne maintained the relaxed poise one might expect of a one-time rock’n’roll singer. On this showing, he is still more a night person than a morning one.