Radio: Presenters playing the World Cup for laughs are scoring an own goal

It’s bad enough that the soccer agnostics complain incessantly about the soccer tournament, but do we need so many wacky items on air?

World Cup Supporters’ Club: John Murray

World Cup Supporters’ Club: John Murray

Sat, Jun 28, 2014, 01:00

We are, one might have noticed, in the midst of a mania that grips otherwise sensible individuals once every four years, when sound judgment is replaced by obsession and near derangement for a month or so. You know the World Cup is in full swing when you’re constantly assailed by people complaining about soccer being everywhere, griping about the triviality of the game and generally trying to put a damper on everyone else’s fun.

So there are ads for The John Creedon Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) in which the spoilsport presenter promises a “World Cup-free zone”. Boo! On Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) we hear Cathal Mac Coille end an item on the Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez’s biting of an Italian defender with a promise that the next story is on “something serious”. Hiss!

These refuseniks may feel alienated by the tournament’s ubiquity, but their grievances are as nothing compared with those of football fans, who have to endure one zany World Cup item after another, as radio broadcasters scramble to jump on the bandwagon. Never the most earnest of forums, The John Murray Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) has been running its own alternative competition in the form of a World Cup Supporters’ Club.

Murray has recruited listeners with varying degrees of connection to the competing nations, with whom he discusses the previous night’s matches. It’s a cute idea that chimes with an overriding priority for radio bosses everywhere – audience interaction – but it falls flat because bland platitudes rather than zingy irreverence tend be the norm when strangers converse on air.

Hence we learn that Eithne, a Dutch supporter, and Jan, a Belgian fan, watched matches on their own. Murray’s questions hardly raise the temperature. “Have you a flag to hang out?” he asks Eithne. If such fireworks don’t leave you breathless, there’s also the revelation that Jan’s nephew went to the same school as James, a Russian supporter. True story.

Murray sticks to the World Cup theme when he talks to Brian, apparently the first referee in Ireland to adopt the tournament’s innovative practice of marking out positions for free kicks with a temporary spray. Brian admittedly uses shaving foam when officiating his under-12s game, but Murray is alive to the significance of the moment. “You’ve probably made history,” he says. The presenter imparts his customary good humour throughout, but it is flimsy stuff.

Still, Murray’s story looks like a hard-hitting exposé of Fifa corruption compared with the fare on Mooney (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Derek Mooney talks to Marie, the owner of a cat that has predicted that Germany and the Netherlands will be the World Cup finalists, using the venerable method of pawing two pieces of paper away from a pile. The presenter treats the item with the daffiness due a feline tipster. When Marie, a keen nutritionist, goes on to claim that she can cure Mooney of arthritis in his back, he declares her his “favourite listener”.

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