Ryan Tubridy finally gets his pitch right after a below-par start to his post-Late Late career

Radio 1 presenter struggles to find the right tone after his ‘crazy and beautiful’ goodbye to Late Late show

Like many recent retirees, Ryan Tubridy (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) seems at a loss as to what do with his newfound freedom. Back on the airwaves for the first time since leaving The Late Late Show, Tubridy is in jocular form, but if he has any big plans, he isn’t giving them away. “Maybe I should dust down my Pádraig Harrington golf clubs and have a go at pitch and putt,” he muses on Wednesday. “It’s been a long time, but I’ve got the time.”

So it would seem. To hear Tubridy tell it, he’s suddenly on the scrapheap. “I go away for one week, and I end up in my 50s and out of a job, how did that happen?” he asks, gliding over the fact that he walked away from the gig. He hastily adds that he now can concentrate on his favourite role: “On the radio, chatting with you and looking forward to the future.” It’s as if he’s trying to reassure himself as much as the audience.

Now, Tubridy is too successful a broadcaster to pack it all in and try his luck on the miniature golf circuit. But he sounds off his game, somehow more jittery than normal, as though he’s trying to find the right tone on radio after his “gorgeous and crazy and beautiful” send-off from the Late Late. True, he’s in his happy place as he shares tales about his holidays in his beloved Connemara, whether listeners want it or not. “I’ve had two 99s since we last met,” the host recalls wistfully, “No messing, just ice cream with a Flake, no jiggery-pokery or bits and pieces.” Only Tubridy could make the eating of an ice cream cone seem like the selfless act of a virtuous citizen.

If there’s a touch of the head boy about his paeans to moderation in frozen treats, Tubridy makes it clear he’s no swot. “I despise the Leaving Cert as an exam, I think it’s cruel and mean,” he declares, as pupils prepare to sit their papers. This might seem a strange assertion, given Tubridy’s regularly-stated devotion to the lost arts of reading and writing. But there’s a palpable sincerity as he bemoans how exams reduce books to bullet points while placing unbearable pressure on students: “There has to be a kinder way to test people’s knowledge.” He’s so passionate on the subject that he mixes his metaphors with exuberant abandon, as he invokes jumping off cliffs, storming beaches and slaying dragons to describe the stress of exams.


It’s all a bit hyper, but Tubridy nonetheless sounds more assured, riffing about things he really cares about – as opposed to minutely detailing his current viewing habits, as he’s also inclined to do. He sounds similarly stirred over the passing of Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto: he mourns her “elegant, ethereal voice” with the appreciation of a true fan. (Tubridy’s devotion to coolly swinging sounds is well documented: he compiled a CD of jazzy lounge standards 20 years ago.)

He’s at his most engaged when interviewing US author David Grann on Wednesday. Having prefaced the interview with ringing endorsements of his guest’s pacy historical books – “They don’t go on and on,” the host says, skating on perilously thin ice – Tubridy is both enthusiastic and knowledgeable as he peppers Grann with questions. For all that he gamely yaks with the producers of reality TV show First Dates Ireland the day before, the host rarely appears more content than when talking to a writer he clearly admires. After a below-par start to his post-Late Late career, Tubridy gets his pitch right.

While Tubs basks in the afterglow of his holidays, Andrea Gilligan sounds less rested after her weekend break. On Tuesday’s Lunchtime Live (Newstalk, weekdays), the host recounts her annoyance at being stuck in tailbacks outside the towns of Virginia and Carrick-on-Shannon for several hours over the bank holiday: “You have to ask, why aren’t they bypassed?” Her question is aimed at prospective callers, but it’s delivered with such exasperation that one suspects it’s a phrase she repeatedly muttered to herself while trapped in her car.

Talking to local residents and representatives, Gilligan hears a familiar litany of projects stalled due to fiscal shortfalls, planning delays and general bureaucratic foot-dragging. All agree bypasses are needed, with the lack of infrastructure ultimately hampering development in the towns. But the tenor of the conversation is one of near-fatalism, with Gilligan sounding more exercised than her guests. “You wouldn’t be talking about this today, only you were caught up in traffic at the weekend,” Cavan councillor TP O’Reilly drily remarks, not without reason.

Whatever the initial spur, Gilligan’s discussion highlights the seemingly insoluble challenge faced by those pushing what callers dub, with varying degrees of vituperation, “the green agenda”: how to reduce car use when local populations require new roads to ease intolerable traffic. With her determinedly up-close-and-personal focus, the host doesn’t attempt to tackle this wider conundrum, but she does provide a telling snapshot of grassroots frustrations that get sometimes lost in national conversations.

There’s more road rage on Wednesday, when listeners voice irritation at the rise in motorway tolls. “It’s the same old story, the motorist gets a kicking again,” one caller fulminates, “we should say to the Government we’re not taking it anymore”. This might sound like a rallying cry to break out les gilets jaunes, but again, the air is one of despondency rather than insurgency. But in this case there’s overwhelming agreement that the root problem is private concerns bilking the public on tolled roads, long after projects have been paid for. If nothing else, Gilligan gives voice to the stubborn sense of grievance that people take second place to profit. If it continues, the atmosphere mightn’t always be so resigned.