Unfortunately, last Friday’s ‘Late Late Show’ special didn’t come close to doing the movement justice, and bordered on embarrassing at times.
It began promisingly, with a live link-up between The Saw Doctors in studio and the Artane Boys ‘n’ Girls Band in Croke Park, giving rise to the notion that RTÉ was intent on pulling out all the stops. Unfortunately the N17 is a song about emigration: unintentionally apt, but a confused start that continued throughout.
Billed as featuring “all the greats of the games”, the show kicked off with Eamon Dunphy sat alongside Bertie Ahern; the pair having obviously set aside Dunphy’s demand for the then Taoiseach’s head on the same forum last year. (The night Senator Eoghan Harris argued that maybe Mr Ahern made his mystery money on the horses; Pee Daddy’s girl, Deputy Beverly Flynn, wouldn’t even have the brass neck to come up with that one.)
Bertie, reiterating his ‘Dubs’ bona fides for the umpteenth time, recalled the days of being lifted over turnstiles to get into games because they couldn’t afford the admission. A lot of people won’t be able to afford to soon enough, Pat Kenny observed as the foundation struggled to conceal Bertie’s blushes. “…Very difficult,” he grinned sheepishly.
Meanwhile, Eamon emoted like only he can, comparing Henry Shefflin favourably to Ronaldo (I don’t think the latter would cut short a holiday in Hawaii for a five-minute chat with Pat) and describing Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh as “the best sports commentator in the world”. Steady on.
Definitely not the best comedian in the world, Oliver Callan killed the convivial-enough atmosphere stone dead with his attempts at satire and mimicry. Mercilessly uncomfortable and offensive, his routine was about as funny as a P45. You didn’t know where to look, which in terms of television isn’t ideal.
Hurling and Gaelic football may be our national games (my order of priority as opposed to those of the powers that be) but the national broadcaster simply doesn’t do GAA very well. Or at least not since the late, genuinely great Micheál O’Hehir last breathed life into a microphone.
While his namesake Ó Muircheartaigh’s salute to the remarkable Sean Óg Ó Ceallachain was well-deserved, the failure by anyone to even mention the contribution made by O’Hehir, the country’s greatest-ever sports broadcaster, living or dead, was mind-boggling.
Not as bemusing, mind, as Brush Shiels, Joe Duffy’s feelgood Friday fixture on ‘Liveline’, who was wheeled out yet again, complete with ‘Ireland’-emblazoned leather jacket, to murder ‘The Fields of Athenry’. Pete St John’s tune is traditionally heard at Celtic, Liverpool and Munster rugby matches, but to my knowledge has never been sung (sober) at a GAA game, despite the presenter’s claim that “this is the song that echoes around the terraces and far beyond.”
Like the Callan cringefest, Shiels’ contribution was completely out-of-kilter with the occasion – something obviously lost on the not exactly clued-in Kenny, who was belatedly bailed out by Des Cahill, scrambling to try and save the day.
By the end those who were still watching said they should have known better. Memo to Pat and his production team: stick to Boyzone.