Second Captains breathes new life into sporting chat show

TV Watch with Dave O’Connell

To be brutally honest, I didn’t expect to like Second Captains, RTE2’s new hybrid of sports, comedy and laddish humour – mainly because I appear to be one of about three people in the country who couldn’t abide the Off the Ball radio version on Newstalk.

To me, it was just a group of smug Dubs in love with their own voices – and I know that one of them is from Tuam – but more to the point, the only sporting opinions that I really want to hear are those of actual sports people.

I didn’t shed any tears when the Off the Ball team thought they’d grown so big they could threaten Denis O’Brien with a walkout if they didn’t get their way on scheduling, only to find that walking was indeed their only option.

And I wasn’t surprised that other radio stations didn’t get killed in the rush to sign them – not least because Denis O’Brien owns most of those other outlets and RTE keeps telling us it’s broke.

So the Off The Ball boys had to make do with an Indo column – which I’ve never read – and a webcast for the Irish Times, which I’ve never seen … until they came up with Second Captains, and RTE commissioned a four-part television series.

Two weeks into this, I don’t just like it – I love it, because this is fresh and funny and very different, in that it’s about sport but it’s not just for anoraks. And it turns out the guys aren’t as smug as radio made them out to be after all.

Yes, there are those who point to Skinner and Baddiel doing something similar – blokes shooting the breeze on a couch, cracking jokes, pulling out embarrassing archive material and so on – but RTE’s version also captures the enthusiasm and sheer craic of a show hosted by a few people with a genuine passion for what they do.

The relaxed style also lends itself to more revealing interviews that you’d get with both parties stuck on either side of a big desk; Ronan O’Gara actually looked like he might be a bit of craic as opposed to the stone-faced professional who specialises in monotone interviews after a big match.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.