Hurling podcast adds to thriving market amid pandemic

Brian Carroll has added his in-depth sports podcast to the mix as others get creative

Just when we thought podcasts couldn’t get any more popular. Since the coronavirus outbreak demand has been amplified as listeners look to escape the news cycle of cancellations, cases and death counts.

A country of talkers, earlier this year a Reuters report showed that 37 per cent of Irish people had listened to a podcast in the previous month.

And then came the coronavirus lockdown - and with it an end to live sport. The thriving Irish podcast market however is experiencing an increase in listeners and subscribers, as well as being boosted by some exciting new entries.

Over the past four weeks leading sports podcast - Second Captains - has seen an increase in free-to-air listens by almost 33 per cent, and membership listens by almost 60 per cent. As well as having an increase in subscribers.


While the Off The Ball podcast network has increased their output to over 40 per week. Filling the void of live sport and reaction with a number of creative initiatives such as the weekly 'Kids Takeover', whereby young listeners send in their questions to the likes of Lee Keegan and Brian O'Driscoll. Some of the country's top sportspeople and coaches are leading a daily workout as a part of a new 'Off the Couch' video podcast series, as well the 'OTB Culture Hall of Fame' where singer Dermot Kennedy has featured.

A Hurler’s Life

The mainstays are having to think outside of the box, others are adding to the mix. Former Offaly hurler and RTÉ radio analyst Brian Carroll started 'A Hurler's Life' late last month and it topped the Apple charts for sports podcasts for 11 of its first 14 days. Each episode involves an in-depth interview with one of the greats of the game of hurling - his opening three have been with Waterford's John Mullane, Clare's Anthony Daly, and most recently Kilkenny's Jackie Tyrrell.

"People are leading such busy lives nowadays and have big commutes, so there's that whole explosion as a medium, you see it with audible books too," the 36-year-old Offaly native told The Irish Times. "Whereas at the moment with the Covid-19 outbreak people have a lot more time on their hands, they're at home and they're doing odd jobs around the house and they're looking for ways to pass the time. And reminisce.

“The thing about my podcast is there hasn’t been one done in this format - with this set template - from a hurler’s perspective. Or even a GAA perspective. Jamie Carragher’s 'The Greatest Game' is where I got my main inspiration from - I was listening to it and I was just thinking I’d love to hear that with a hurler. And then I thought what’s the point in giving someone else the idea, what’s stopping you from doing this yourself.

You probably get an opportunity to see the person behind the helmet

“So it’s a bit surreal to see myself on the podcast charts beside him. I didn’t envisage anything like that, to me it’s a hobby. I said I’d go and talk to those former players that I respected, and I get pure enjoyment from that. The enjoyment for me is the hour and a half or two hour conversation. There’s been over 20,000 listens across the three episodes - they’re numbers I didn’t dream of.”

Carroll has often appeared as a guest on SportsJoe’s popular GAA Hour podcast, but this has been a very different experience.

“I’ve no producer, no sound engineer. I’ve had to learn all of this going along. It’s been difficult being the other side of the mic, being the interviewer. You’re nervous at first so it’s something that I’m probably learning and growing into as the shows have been progressing. You’ve to change the audio formats, you’ve to edit using software, do all your intros and outros. You need a platform to host your podcast - I’m using Soundcloud for that. And then you use your RSS feed to be able to upload to iTunes and Spotify. And you’ve to apply for validation and it takes time to get sorted - so there’s actually quite a lot to it.

“I envisaged doing face to face interviews because interviews are better when you can have that one-to-one environment - but I’ve had to do them over Skype. So the difficulty with that is the quality of the audio mightn’t be as good. And the line might drop, and we’ve had a few funny episodes already with that.

“I think people are understanding with the nature of what we’re dealing with though. You see it on TV where Skype lines and audio and video calls are not great because there’s obviously a lot more people working from home.”

A five-time Offaly championship winner with the Coolderry club, and the county’s second highest scorer ever - Carroll’s podcast is released every Wednesday morning, and he intends on interviewing 12 guests per season.


“I think the set template creates a consistency for the listener, I’d like to think they look forward to hearing the specific answers. And for me I probably love when the hurlers have to pick the best six they ever played with each episode.

“But look the players can tell me what they want to tell me, they know that I won’t interrupt them or push them if they’re not willing. I’ve usually come up against them either as a player or they were an opposing coach - and I respect them a huge amount. And I think that respect has been a two way relationship and that’s coming out in the podcast.

“They know they can trust me, that I’m not looking for a story or headlines. I send them the questions in advance, so I won’t be blindsiding them and that builds up that trust aspect too.”

The more casual setting of a sports podcast has been an especially popular platform for ex-players. An intercounty hurler for 14 years, Carroll retired in 2016, and he thinks his own vast playing experience helps his guests relate and open up with him.

“Players saying ‘you know yourself’ - that’s a throwaway statement but it tells you a lot about the relationship. You take John Mullane for example, who a lot of people see as a jovial outgoing kind of a extrovert type character - a great guy - but you know he probably revealed a side to him that was hugely honest and showed great humility and deep spirituality as well. I think that’s been a huge part of the appeal.

“I try and capture what it means to be a hurler - so having lived that life myself is a big help. People love to reminisce - to hear about players’ stories and regrets. These lads have had serious journeys and it all ties into the name. It is about much more than just what you see on the field, or the run of the mill stuff that you’re used to hearing and that we probably know a lot of already anyway.

“This ties into their careers, their other passions, the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and you probably get an opportunity to see the person behind the helmet.”