AS stated last week, it’s been suggested I should mention some of the games that formed part of my commentary journey over the past 29 years.
Well, why not begin with the first one. Prior to all that, a little background on how it came about.
In November 1990, County Sound West Cork, as it was known, began broadcasting with Michael Scanlon assuming the responsibility for the sports content. At that time I was attached to the teaching staff of St Brogan’s College in Bandon and to be quite honest with you, I had little knowledge of the workings of the newly-formed radio station. I certainly hadn’t been aware of who Michael Scanlon was.
I think it was 1989, Paddy Mawe, then a physics teacher in St Brogan’s who later became the principal, purchased a video camera. Also around this time, St Brogan’s senior teams were really competitive in the Vocational Schools GAA competitions.
So for the craic more than anything else, the newly purchased educational tool was used to video a few matches with Paddy Mawe on camera and this chancer on commentary. Usually the following day during lunchtime the finished unedited product was shown the demonstration room, and believe it or not a sizeable number of the student body turned up.
In early May 1991, Peter Quinn, then President of the GAA, was guest speaker in the school and when Michael Scanlon became aware of this, he decided to avail of the opportunity to interview the main man. Little did we realise that a conversation between the two of us would lead to the first every commentary.
That initial dialogue had Michael explaining a little about the radio and his role in it. Not sure why, but I inquired, if he ever saw the possibility of doing live broadcasts.
‘Yes if I could get a commentator...’ Looking back, I can’t figure out the rationale but I informed my new acquaintance I was willing to chance it.
Over the next week, he decided the Cork senior hurling championship game between Carbery and Valley Rovers in Ballinspittle on Sunday, May 19 1991 would be the historic first. He liaised with the host club Courcey Rovers who were beyond accommodating.
The broadcasting equipment was pretty basic but highly functional. A gentleman called Eugene O’Sullivan from around the Bantry area offered his telecommunications experience and connected the equipment, a tiny machine that would fit in a biscuit tin, to the telephone that was located in the club hall.
The power came via a cable from a house across the road. The commentary box, was made up of three chairs and a table placed on top of the dugout on the roadside of the pitch.
Social distancing wasn’t a high priority in Ballinspittle that beautiful sunny afternoon. Akin to many clubs down, Courceys couldn’t have been more cooperative. Any request that was made was instantly converted into reality. They viewed the presence of local radio personnel with a sense pride in their own place.
A little bit on the opposing teams.
Valley Rovers had three years earlier been in the South East junior hurling championship and after many disappointing defeats eventually won the title in 1988 for the first time in over 20 years. They went on to add the county when they defeated West Cork neighbours Newcestown in the county final played before a huge audience in Bandon.
Twelve months later they had crashed through another glass ceiling when they saw off the challenge of another West Cork side Kilbrittain in the intermediate hurling final which was staged in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. This victory ensured that the Valley operators would play senior hurling for the first time in their history in 1990.
Beaten in the first round by St Finbarr’s, 2-17 to 1-9, meant a summer without championship hurling, no second chance. Carbery for their part had rarely being around at the business end of the summer but victories over Milford, Muskerry and Glen Rovers before losing to the Barrs in the semi-final in 1990 demonstrated that they had a certain amount of potential.
Back to day. Player recognition was not a major issues as the Valley players were neighbours’ children and quite a few of the divisional side had attended St Brogan’s.
The part of the broadcast that has caused some intrigue was the identity of the co-commentator: Dónal McCarthy, a Drimoleague native, was a garda based in Innishannon. Despite Dónal having attended the famed hurling nursery in Farranferris, his code of choice would be Gaelic football, having played with both his home club Clann na nGael and his adopted club, before embarking on a successful coaching journey in the big ball code.
His view of his lofty position on that day was that I couldn’t get anybody to fill the role. I can’t disagree.
Now all the broadcasting logistical arrangements for day were supervised by Michael Scanlon who made a strategic decision not to inform the suits at the station what was to happen 29 years and two days ago. You can draw your own conclusions as to why but I would think that it was based on the strategy that sometimes it’s easier to obtain forgiveness than permission.
Indeed he gave the Sunday afternoon programme presenter, the late Con McCarthy, a Dunmanway native but Bandon resident, very short notice of his plans.
Just prior to throw-in, Michael, who was on the line to Con back in the studio, handed me the microphone. We had only one. We were off.
You do remember that earlier I provided you with details of my commentary experience prior to this? The few videos of school matches.
In those games when the sliotar went out of play, I took a bit of a rest, now I did the same thing here not realising that one of the major sins on radio is known as ‘dead air’.
Half time arrived. I handed back the microphone but when Michael spoke to the presenter Con, he found a man in a distressed state as a consequence of the amount of silence that was contained in the first half.
He progressed to me with the only training I would ever receive. ‘Tell that (word rhymes with tucker) to keep talking!’ It has been the maxim I’ve stuck to.
Thankfully the second half proved less stressful. When it was all over Carbery, with players from Argideen Rangers, Ballinscarthy, Bandon, Kilbrittain and Newcestown, had defeated Valley Rovers 1-19 to 3-5.
Of course I couldn’t let this occasion pass without mentioning refreshments supplied by the local club and if I am honest, the provision of same by many clubs since has been one of the most pleasurable aspects of the job.
So that is it my dear friends, the starting block for live matches on C103. Hopefully the station will provide many more in the future. Yes it was a real privilege to be part of the first one.