Michael Scanlon is the driving force behind GAA local radio every weekend

Michael Scanlon is the driving force behind GAA local radio every weekend
Paudie Palmer and John Fintan Daly in the commentary box. Their work is hugely assisted by C103 producer Michael Scanlon. Picture: Miki Barlok

EARLIER this week a suggestion arrived that I might consider scribbling a few lines on the most memorable games I commented on over the past number of years.

In future editions, I may very well get around to do that, but for this week why not acknowledge the individual who makes it all possible.

Some of you will be aware and some of you will not of Michael Scanlon’s role in ensuring that C103 broadcasts one of the most listened sports programmes in country every Sunday afternoon.

His official title informs us, that he is the producer of the Cork’s Sports Sunday programme as well as producing a weekend sports preview show on Saturday morning, together with being responsible for what are termed the Saturday evening sports specials.

The title only tells part of the story because, in truth, this unassuming and seriously committed individual is the catalyst for the output of Gaelic games on the local radio station station C103.

Denis Donovan and Michael Scanlon. Picture: Larry Cummins
Denis Donovan and Michael Scanlon. Picture: Larry Cummins

Where does one begin?

Despite his major input, it’s a most part-time position. It could be said that it’s both his hobby and passion.

In real life (not too sure if this is the correct term) he is a senior partner in an accountancy firm based in Dunmanway with a seriously large client base.

Born and reared in the Béal na mBláth end of the Newcestown parish, where he still resides with his wife Mary and son Shane, Michael, by his own admission, didn’t have have to overly concern himself with acquiring a dress suit when the All-Stars were announced.

However from a very young age he was interested in sport and on Saturday afternoons listening to BBC Radio 2, now Radio 5 Live, was an absolute must.

Legendary commentators such as Peter Jones, Alan Parry, Maurice Edelson, and others left a lasting impression.

The midweek fill was provided by the same media outlet, usually in the form of FA Cup and European Cup games, back in those days Liverpool were the leading English side, hence if Michael is requested to name his favourite premier league team, the Merseyside reds fall easily off the tongue.

While in secondary school in Hamiliton High School in Bandon, the school senior football team qualified for the All-Ireland B Colleges final in Croke Park with St Patrick’s Classical School Armagh providing the opposition.

Michael, whose view of this major event may not have been shared by the main media outlets, wrote to Croke Park as to why it wasn’t been broadcast live by the national broadcaster. He is not sure as to whether or not he ever got a reply.

Akin to practically the entire student population, the then Newcestown teenager presented at the Jones’s Road venue, but picture this, as the Hammies army roared on their team, albeit to no avail as future Armagh footballer John Corlon put an end to their dream, Michael sat on his own and commentated on the entire game on a primitive enough form of a radio cassette player.

This gives an indication of how besotted this young student was with the whole word of radio sports broadcasting.

Jerry Healy, Denis Kelleher, Cian O'Brien, John Newman and Michael Scanlon. Picture: George Hatchell
Jerry Healy, Denis Kelleher, Cian O'Brien, John Newman and Michael Scanlon. Picture: George Hatchell

Later in life he joined the Macra movement and his PR skills, if you wish, were put to quick use as he filled the role of PRO with the Muskerry region and later the County Executive.

During his Macra days in the mid to late 80s, he came in contact with a kindred spirit, Dan Joe Kelleher from a place called Carriganima, which is located between Macroom and Millstreet and who, at the time, was operating a community television service known as LTV in the mid Cork area.

The seeds of broadcasting GAA games were about to be sown. The two worked in tandem and their first games were the Mid Cork junior football finals.

The games weren’t shown live, but on Sunday evenings the entire game, together with interviews, were shown throughout the greater Mid Cork area.

This was their Sunday Game.

Around this time also, you had a pirate radio station known as WKLR broadcasting in the West Cork area with the late Richie Conroy, a Bandon native, in charge of sport.

Michael began supplying him with interviews from the televised Mid Cork games and, realising that he now had an outlet, he presented at other games around other areas of Mid and West Cork with tape recorder on hand.

The latter part of the 80s signalled the end of the pirate radio stations to be replaced with local ones and while WKLR initially harboured hopes of getting the franchise for West Cork, it didn’t come to pass.

The week prior to closing at the end of 1988, they made a decision to go out with a bang.

Considering that the majority of the personnel were volunteers they undertook the mammoth task of live broadcasting 36 one-hour shows from venues all over Cork from Youghal to the Kerry boarder, and from Mitchelstown to the tip of the Beara peninsula.

Again Michael played a pivotal role in many of these productions.

As the curtain came down on WKLR, Michael, this time wearing his accountancy hat, and a number of others who realised the massive potential for local radio in the western territories decided to approach the suits in what was then known as County Sound based in Mallow, with the intention of setting up a similar station for their area under the Mallow umbrella.

After some serious negotiations, a deal was done and West Cork now had its own licensed local radio.

In latter years there was a merging of both North and West into what we now know to be the very successful C103 franchise.

Back to the trade talks between north and west for the moment, the chief executive at the time was a gentleman by the name of Colm O’Connell, and when the agreement was reached, Michael expressed the view that he would love the opportunity to do sport.

Mr O’Connell’s response was “you can do it until you make a mess of it.”

When the new radio station began broadcasting in November 1990, Michael had the unique distinction of being the first to report from the Southern Hemisphere, earlier he had travelled Down Under as a tourist with the Irish International Rules team and sent a live report of his experiences to the opening day show.

As a matter of interest the presenter of that programme was Patricia Messinger who is now the presenter of the Cork Today programme.

Next week I hope to tell you how the first commentary came about, but over the years the driving force behind them all was Béal na mBláth native.

Michael Scanlon won a Munster GAA award for his dedication to radio.
Michael Scanlon won a Munster GAA award for his dedication to radio.

He decided what games would be covered. When that decision was arrived at, he made contact with the host club, to discuss the location and sometimes the type of commentary position, the provision of a telephone line and the source of power.

In the early days he would arrive at a venue armed with his own coil of telephone wire and connect on to a phone in a house, a school, even a pub and some of these locations could have been up half a mile from the commentary box.

As mentioned, power was another issue, and akin to the telephone situation his car booth would contain more cable than many leading electricians.

To this day Michael has total responsibility for all the infrastructure that is required to broadcast a game.

While the commentary is underway he is in constant contact with the programme presenter about advertising breaks and other issues that may arise.

Many other outlets would have dedicated sound personnel for all this work, not around here.

During the game, he also has to take notes, as he is the person who assumes most of the responsibility for getting after-match interviews.

When the game is over and the commentators are on their way home, Michael still has some work to do in terms of dismantling the broadcasting equipment an all that comes with that chore.

As mentioned this most unassuming of individuals is the unsung hero when it comes to the weekend sports content of C103. Almost 30 years ago, he was handed that responsibility and was told he would be allowed to do so “until he made a mess of it.”

Long may he continue in the role.

A mighty man.

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