Behind the Microphone – Darragh Maloney

They bring us most of the magical moments we enjoy in sport through the commentary and analysis. Their personalities and the words they choose so often become a central part of our national memory around the truly defining moments in sport but they are there for the quieter days as well, telling the story of sport.

In our occasional Sport for Business series ‘Behind the Microphone’ we meet with the individuals in the media who bring sporting stories to life on television and radio.

Today we feature Darragh Maloney who brings us the biggest events from World Cups to the Champions’ League on RTÉ.  He also likes to dabble in a bit of commenatray and the All Ireland Football Final is a special event for hime for a number of different reasons.

How did you get a start behind the microphone?

It never changes but it is still so hard for someone to get a start in this business and I was no different to anyone before me or the professionals who are coming online now.

It involved a fair amount of luck and persistence and not taking “no” for an answer.

I did hospital radio while I was still at school and then studied journalism afterwards. I was lucky enough to get some work experience with Century Radio, which was the fore-runner for Today FM. I did what everyone does on work experience in terms of looking after the on-air staff with scripts or meals or cups of tea or coffee.

It was brilliant to get to see how a “real” radio station worked and I got to see some brilliant broadcasters in action like Con Murphy, Paddy Clancy and John Saunders.

I always remember applying for a job reading the news at a Dublin radio station and the guy who listened to my demo tape told me that I should consider changing career which was a bit of a shock but it did drive me to prove him wrong.

It was such a shame when Century closed down but it was not meant to be. I then went and did some reporting for Con Murphy at Rock 104 which then became FM104. That was another great experience and I was lucky enough to get a contract with them as soon as I left college.

From there it was into RTE Radio in 1995 and RTE TV Sport in 1999 and I have been getting away with it ever since.

What’s your favourite memory of where your career has taken you so far?

I never take any of the events we work on for granted but two jump out.

The first was the Ireland vs Italy match at Euro 2016 when Robbie Brady scored the late goal that put us through to the knock-out stages. That was the first major tournament I worked on without Bill O’Herlihy there and to be sitting in that chair on that night was pretty special.

I had watched Bill for years presenting matches like that and to be where he was was special, Bill had passed away the previous summer but he was very much with me that night.

The other event is the 2002 World Cup Final and I was just there as a spectator.

George Hamilton was commentating on the final between Germany and Brazil with Jim Beglin and I had been working on the 3rd Place Play-Off the previous night. That World Cup was my first to see “live” and it was an incredible trip and I got to see some amazing players in great matches and to get to the final was the perfect ending.

Who would have been your role models in the media, here and further afield?

I would have grown up watching Bill O’Herlihy and he was a huge influence on me even before I knew him and worked with him. He was always in control and had the most incredible presence in that studio. He was a massive help to me before he retired and then afterwards.

I always liked Des Lynam too as he was so relaxed in studio and had a great sense of humour.

George Hamilton and Jimmy Magee would have been big influences on me as superb commentators.

Given a blank sheet of paper what would be your favourite event to work on?

The All-Ireland Finals are very special days and I have been fortunate enough to commentate on the football finals on RTE Radio since 2011. I played a lot of gaelic football and hurling for Saint Vincent’s in Dublin growing up so to be in the best seat in the house and get the chance to work on that match is pretty amazing to me.

What’s your preference between being the anchor in the studio or the commentator in the ground?

I don’t really have a preference but both roles give me the best of both worlds and mean that I am working pretty much all year around.

I started out as a reporter in RTE Radio and fell into the commentaries accidentally after some gentle pushing by the then Head of Radio Sport, Ian Corr. Ian asked me to commentate on a UCD v Bohemians League of Ireland match in Belfield and it started from there. I was not good that first day but we did a lot of work on it and it started to get a bit better.

I went into TV as a soccer commentator in 1999 when the Champions League went to two nights a week and I went for the auditions and got the job.

The presenting was another accident (there is a theme here!) and I just saw it as another skill but felt it would never take over from the commentary role.

They told me about the plan to take over from Bill around 2009 but it was not something I had ever thought about before.I did miss the commentaries when I stayed home from the 2010 World Cup to present alongside Bill.

In terms of the best of both worlds, which I have now, the studio stuff has me working on events that I would be watching anyway but I still have a big passion for commentating and that is where the GAA comes in during the summer so it feeds that addiction. I have done the odd soccer commentary recently and really enjoyed it but that’s only filling in when George isn’t available.

What is the photo screen saver on your phone?

It is an Inpho photograph of the celebrations after the final whistle in the 1982 All-Ireland Football Final between Kerry and Offaly.

I only discovered the photograph recently as it was printed in a supplement in the Star on the Wednesday before the drawn Kerry V Dublin 2019 Final.

The photograph has huge significance for me for a couple of reasons. It was the first All-Ireland Final I was ever at and I was there with my Dad who was from Offaly.

The photograph is of Offaly supporters carrying Seamus Darby and Johnny Mooney head-high towards the Hogan Stand before they received the Sam Maguire. The reason the photo is important to me is that my father is in the corner of the picture and I am nearly sure you can see the top of my head standing beside him.

My Dad died suddenly in March 2013 after a heart attack and his face just jumped out of the picture at me when I first saw it. It is very strange as there must be a few hundred faces in that picture and I saw him straight-away! A cropped version of the photograph is used on the front of Seamus Darby’s book and the full version is in the middle of the book.

Have you any superstitions or routines before going on air?

I don’t have any superstitions before going on air but I do like to be early for everything I do and I have to make sure that I am as prepped as I can possibly be.

I would do hours and hours of notes and reading before a commentary or presenting and would only end up using 20% of it but being prepared for most scenarios helps me feel ready for what is to come. I would try to arrive at a game close to three hours before it starts especially when the crowds are big.

I got caught in traffic at Euro 2000 driving from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and was nearly late for the match and I clearly remember that sense of panic 19 years later and I swore I would never let that happen again.

What would be your chosen sporting sideline when you are not working?

I am not fussy what sport I watch when I am not working – I just enjoy going to a game and not having to scribble notes or talk over it. It is great working on these things but the odd time it is nice to just sit there like everyone else and enjoy it.

Who in the world of sport would you most like to interview?

That’s the ultimate question for the people who do what we do and I would have a very long list from a wide variety of sports but at the top of the list would be Lionel Messi. I have been fortunate enough to see him play live a few times and he is just the most incredible player I have ever seen. I am not sure what sort of an interviewee he would be but just the fact that it’s Messi would be enough for me.

What’s your favourite social media?

I don’t do any social media anymore. I was never a big fan and I just found that I wasn’t getting as much out of it as I hoped so I stopped last year and I haven’t missed it at all. I know journalists find it very handy for news lines etc but I can source them elsewhere.

Who do you admire in the media outside of your own organisation?

I have become a big podcast listener in recent months and I am listening to them all the time. Outside of RTE, I have always been a fan of Ger Gilroy and more recently, Joe Molloy from Newstalk.

I heard Joe’s interview with former Irish football captain David Meyler a few weeks ago and it was the most amazing piece of radio I have heard in a long time. I always listen to the GAA Hour with Colm Parkinson and James Richardson from The Totally Football Show is superb but he has been superb from the Gazetta days on Channel 4.

What’s your favourite way to unwind away from sport?

That’s a tricky one when your job is alot of the time, other people do as their hobby or passtime.

I am a bit long in the tooth to still be playing but I have been bitten by the golf bug in recent months and I am going to get stuck into that. I used to play a lot years ago and then stopped. I tried to go back and play but was making a show of myself and then stopped. But this summer I fell back into it and i am determined to give it another chance. It could end up being stressful again but we will see.

A friend of mine started playing cricket last year and tried to get me into it but that hasn’t worked up to this point.

Is there any particular sporting sponsorship that you think works well?

I have always thought that Lidl’s sponsorship of the LGFA works very well. It has been a very good fit for the company but it has helped raise the profile of the game all over the country.

I think ladies football is one of the fastest growing sports in the country anyway and Lidl did help raise awareness of the game and the stars who play it. The game is being played at a very high standard but having a big company behind it has certainly put it in a new place.

Image Credit: Inpho.ie

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