As The Sunday Game celebrates forty years on TV, Seán Creedon talks to its presenter of the last eleven years Des Cahill about his love of all things sporting and his life in broadcasting.
The BBC’s Match of the Day programme, with its distinctive theme music, has been regular Saturday night viewing in many Irish homes for over 50 years. Meanwhile, for the past 40 years the strains of the James Last tune Jägerlatein has signalled the start of summer and RTE’s Sunday night GAA highlights programme, The Sunday Game.
The Sunday Game made its debut on July 8th, 1979 when RTÉ2 showed just one game, the Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles, where Cork beat Limerick 2-14 to 0-9.
Galway-born Jim Carney and the late Bill O’Herlihy were co-presenters in the early years. The programme made the headlines when one of their analysts was former Camogie player, Liz Howard. Female analysts and female presenters are very common in 2019, but 40 years ago it was big news to have a woman on Irish television talking about sport.
Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin, who is fondly remembered for his long-running GAA results programme on Radio Éireann on Sunday nights, temporarily replaced Carney for two years, but then another Galway-man (via Waterford), Michael Lyster, took over from Carney in 1984, the GAA Centenary Year, when the programme got a revamp.
When the programme later expanded to feature live games, the Ireland’s Own columnist presented both The Sunday Game Live and The Sunday Game highlights programme later the same evening.
In 2004, when presentation of the afternoon programme moved from the RTÉ studios in Donnybrook to various venues around the country, Pat Spillane took over as presenter of the Sunday night highlights programme. Five years later the former Kerry footballer was replaced by Des Cahill.
Now well into his 11th season as presenter of the hugely popular Sunday night programme, is Des happy with the way the programme is going?
‘‘I am enjoying it. You couldn’t call it hard work because I love sport, but I am certainly kept very busy as I still do a lot of radio work also. We have great viewing figures and I don’t want to sound boastful, but our audience figures compared to Sky are not an issue. I realise that a lot of GAA people cannot afford to purchase a Sky Sports package.’’