Offaly’s Michael Duignan marks 21 years as RTE’s chief hurling co-commentator this year. He tells Seán Creedon about being in the on-air hot seat, and reflects on his life and career
Down through the decades GAA supporters have had their favourite commentor be it Micheál O’Hehir, Micheál O Muircheartaigh, Brian Carty, Darragh Moloney, Marty Morrissey or Ger Canning.
Then along came co-commentators.
In television we live in an age of action replays, so that’s why you need a person at the microphone who ‘can call it’ right first time. And that’s where Michael Duignan, the man from Banagher comes in.
Most GAA fans agree that the former Offaly hurler is number one when it comes to ‘calling it’ as a co-commentator in big hurling games – and this is Duignan’s 21st year working as a co-commentator for RTE.
Michael played his last senior championship game for Offaly against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final of 2000. Prior to the All-Ireland finals in 1994 and 1995, Duignan had impressed Sunday Game presenter Michael Lyster when doing pre-match interviews.
One day Lyster, having spoken to producer Michael O’Carroll, asked Duignan if would be interested in doing analysis work on the Sunday Game.
His first big game was the 1996 All-Ireland hurling final between Wexford and Limerick, where he was joined in the gantry of the old Nally Stand by Ger Loughnane, who at time was the Clare senior hurling manager.
Whenever Offaly were not involved, Michael worked as an analyst on the Sunday afternoon and Sunday night programmes.
Later he gravitated towards co-commentating and for the past two decades Michael has been the man at the elbow of Ger Canning, Marty Morrissey and Darragh Moloney in the commentary box.
It’s a job where you need to know your stuff, be well informed about the rules and the habits of the players. And not be afraid to give an opinion.
Michael said, ‘‘It can take a while to get used to a different commentators, they all have their own different styles.
“I remember Johnny Giles saying that the best piece of advice he received with regard to doing co-commentary was not to speak just for the sake of it. If the game went on for five minutes and the nature of the play in that period didn’t demand your input, then so be it. It’s something I try and adhere to.’
‘‘I do my homework and try get to know the players, especially with their helmets on. If I am working at a senior game I always make sure to get a ground early to see the minor game because as you know the minors will in a few years become seniors.’’
‘‘In the studio you have time to think about what you are going to say and it’s probably easier than co-commentary. On commentary, it all happens as the game unfolds in front of you and you don’t have much time to think. I think co-commentary is more challenging, but then your day’s work is done when the 70 minutes are up.’’
Michael also writes a column for the Mail on Sunday where he has won praise for his perceptive analysis of Gaelic games.
His father, Peadar, hailed from Connemara and his uncle, Frank, hurled for Galway. Michael’s mother Jo O’Meara was from Lorrha, just over the border in Tipperary.
Peadar often worked overtime in the Green Isle factory in Banagher, and his mother worked in Dooly’s hotel, in Birr. They managed to save enough money to send Michael and his brother, Peadar, to boarding school in Garbally. His four sisters attended the La Sainte Union convent in Banagher.