In the latest of quick-fire interviews with Irish football journalists, Dave McIntyre talks about asking ‘stupid’ questions, why the job isn’t always that glamorous, and why practice makes perfect.
Q&A by Dave McIntyre (Newstalk)
How did you get started in your current job?
I was working in financial services, but was always obsessed with sport and doing bits and pieces for community radio. At that time, I decided to go back to college, to study journalism at night.
On the weekends, I worked for free for Newstalk over a six-month period, before a local station in the southeast asked me to interview for a position with them. That went well and I got a full-time sports journalist job in Waterford, where I lived for 18 months before Newstalk asked me to move back to Dublin and work for them.
Can you remember the first big event that you covered?
It wasn’t football-related, but I’ll never forget the one-on-one interview that I did with Ireland rugby star Brian O’Driscoll. It was after the 2007 Six Nations and ahead of the ill-fated World Cup in France. It was, and still is, one of the biggest interviews of my career.
What has been your most memorable match?
I commentated on the 2011 Heineken Cup final as Leinster came from 22-6 down at half-time to beat Northampton. An incredible day all round.
Football-wise, it would have to be Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Chelsea in 2011 at Old Trafford – a game which clinched the Premier League title. The atmosphere was fantastic and United scored in the very first minute which set the game up brilliantly.
Do you have a particular career highlight?
That Heineken Cup final certainly sticks out. But another would be Manchester United’s game against Sunderland on the day that Manchester City snatched the Premier League title in injury time. I was at the Stadium of Light, while Kevin Kilbane was at the City of Manchester Stadium, and we were calling the plays over the afternoon between us.
And what about a lowlight?
There are several, but it has to be a golf interview that I did at the Irish Open in Killarney when Darren Clarke went through me for a short-cut for asking ‘particularly stupid questions’.
What has been your worst work-related disaster?
Turning up at the Twickenham Stoop to commentate on a Heineken Cup rugby game between Harlequins and Connacht, only to discover that the phone line hadn’t been installed properly. The broadcast was abandoned, leaving me sitting there alongside my two co-commentators with nothing to do for the entire game.
Is there one particular question you regret asking an interviewee?
This can always be a tricky one, but one stands out from a GAA media event. I asked Bryan Cullen in the week before the All-Ireland final if it would be his last game for Dublin. I regretted asking it as soon as I finished the question. It wasn’t a fair question to ask.
Who has been the best manager to deal with?
There have been many in football, but Ireland ruby coach Joe Schmidt takes it. A genuinely good guy, he respects the media, speaks honestly, addresses your questions, and has no problem speaking at length.
What stadium has the best media facilities?
The Emirates Stadium in London – luxury personified. Huge press lounge, excellent food, and plenty of space in the radio gantry.
How does covering football differ to other sports?
Football is universal. Everyone seems to have an opinion on it. And that leads to huge reactions and involvement from listeners, which we try to tap into during commentaries.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
That it’s all glamour. True, there are great days when you are covering big games with huge crowds and a lot at stake. But there is also the nil-all draw at the Reebok Stadium on a freezing night in January when it’s lashing rain, the food is terrible, and your flight home is delayed by four hours. Thankfully there are not many of those days, but they do happen.
Any advice for someone coming into football reporting?
From a radio point of view, make sure to hone your craft. Do as many dummy match reports as you can; recording them, improving your style, tone, speed and knowledge. Then, when you’re happy with it, send it into every sports editor you can.
Also, crucially, be aware that before you get your first break, there is a strong possibility that you will need to work for free for a period of time. You have to prove yourself and make the most of any opportunity that you get.
What changes do you see happening to your profession in the future?
Just like the print industry, it’s hard to know what will happen in radio. It is certainly becoming increasingly difficult to be different and to stand out. But it’s part of the challenge that comes with being a journalist.