Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Gifts from the Rugby Pods

A look at the top rugby podcasts available to Irish fans

Unfortunately, due to life choices and a dodgy knee which I never bothered getting sorted (learn from me people, you definitely regret it), my days of full-contact sports and even jogging are long behind me.

So for the guts of a decade, I pretty much felt sorry for myself by doing virtually nothing that resembled exercise.  For the past couple of years however, I have taken to walking for about 45m to an hour a day, which is far more beneficial to your health and well-being than it sounded when it was first suggested to me.

And to accompany me on those walks, I have my rugby podcasts.  What's more, they make the time passed and energy expelled seem like next to nothing.  So today I thought I'd share with you the shows I listen to on a regular basis.

This isn't meant to be a love-in, nor is it meant to criticise just for the sake of it.  I'm simply doing my best to give my honest impressions on the various offerings out there.

These are in no particular order but I'm happy to kick off with the SC crew.  They have brought Irish sports broadcasting into the 21st century in recent years.  A lot of us grew tired of being force fed dour, predictable, stodgy accounts of what occurred on the pitch the previous weekend.  
The contemporary audience demands witty, erudite depictions of not just the match itself, but also the overall experience of the day from Peter O'Mahony's "anthem face" to George Hook's technicolor ties.

So major kudos to Eoin McDevitt, Ken Early, his rugby alter ego Ken Burley, Ciaran Murphy, "rugby guy" Simon Hick and the rest of the crew for an excellent podcast and also of course for making the challenging transition to television so seemless.

Does this mean I think their show is beyond improvement?  Not quite.

From a rugby junkie's point of view, while I totally get that theirs is a multi-sport format, I don't think it would hurt to segment their show so listeners could skip to and share a particular interview if that is all they would be interested in hearing.

Plus, while again I understand that football is much more popular than all the other sports, given their output is four podcasts a week I feel it is a mistake to not only devote two of them entirely to the so-called "beautiful game", but also to spend time on the other two shows discussing soccer matters.  

For me it would be better to spread all sports over all four shows -  they could still have 50% of the overall time for soccer if that's the way they want to go, but this way on a big week for provincial rugby they could do a feature on a province in every show, or alternatively on a big week for GAA they could do features on four different counties.

But having said that, I do preface my opinions with the words "for me", and they are definitely not making the show just for me!  So they'd probably be better off continuing the way they are!  Either way, I'll still be listening.

I took great pleasure calling this show "Off The Boil" when the Second Captains crowd left, mostly because I thought it was a decent pun.   But to be fair, Ger Gilroy, Joe Molloy  & co have done a good job getting the show back together.

Unlike the Captains, this show's rugby offering does have its own dedicated podcast, and it also has regular slots on Monday and Wednesday, plus the odd extra interview thrown in.

Highlight of the week is often the Wednesday Night show which generally features Gerry Thornley (who also shows up on Second Captains - maybe he needs to make a choice?) and Keith Wood and their interactions with each other are often more entertaining than their actual content!  

Let's put it this way - I don't think Keith is all too enamoured when Thorinho refers to him as "Fester".  Having said that, Gerry may not be too wild about being called "Thorinho" either...

I let this show go for a long, long time before I decided to start listening, mostly because I was held back by an assumption that it would be dour, predictable & stodgy in the manner I described earlier.  

Essentially I thought it would be an audio version of Against The Head.

Thankfully when I did get around to tuning in, Hugh Cahill and Wes Liddy proved me wrong with what is generally a light hearted yet factual look at what transpired the previous weekend.

No Second Captains but certainly worth a listen.

Peter O'Reilly of the Sunday Times has recently launched his own show and so far has been joined by such distinguished co-presenters as George Hook and Brendan Fanning.

They have certainly hit the ground running with good guests and interviews in their three shows to date - I like the way they don't simply confine their scope to immediate matters like the test matches last weekend or the European matches next - they also skirt around the edges picking out stories like the progression of rugby in Georgia and that perennially crucial topic of concussion & general player safety (so it's a bit like a rugby blog doing a midweek post on podcasts...).

I can't find them on iTunes yet but they are on Soundcloud.

Now to shows beyond the Emerald Isle.  These guys are English, and as they say in their intro while they love rugby they tend not to take it nor themselves too seriously.

The trio of presenters are a good mix of characters - Tim the host is the broadcasting pro who has gadgets at his disposal to throw in the odd sound sting when appropriate, Phil is the "stats" man and finally there's JB who is basically a grumpy old man trapped in a young man's body (though I have a feeling he may be just playing a character on the show).

Going just by their show, the rugby universe begins and ends with England and the Premiership.  Having said that, it's worth a listen because if we Irish fans spent all our time listening to just our own shos week in week out, we'd think the world begins and ends with Ireland & the provinces.  So a bit of perspective can't hurt and these guys have a laugh while they're providing it.

A more mainstream look at English rugby courtesy of the tough talking ex-England skipper.  He normally has a guest with him throughout the show and he covers all aspects of the game including the Pro12, Top 14, Super Rugby and even rugby league.  Plus there are regular interviews with Nigel Owens on the refereeing side of things.  Again, a good listen for viewpoints outside the Irish bubble.

Once more I must point out that these pods are listed in no particular order.  Only reason this one is so far down the list is that they aren't on as regularly as they used to be.  

When these guys do have a new show, if I can only listen to one rugby show in a given week, it would be this one.

Ruggamatrix is based in Australia and is hosted by Djuro "Bronk" Sen and Mark "Casho" Cashman.  Yes, they tend to focus on matters Wallaby & Super Rugby.  But they also have a good ally in their camp in the form of Irish defence coach Les Kiss who appears regularly on the show via Skype and gives good in depth interviews on how things are going up here.

Technically a vidcast so not ideal for my long walks, but I can't let these lads go unmentioned.  A weekly look at Leinster & Ireland rugby with a straightforward format, but their excellent knowledge of the game plus the numerous quotable soundbites make it a must-watch for fans even outside their remit.

The HarpinOnRugby Podcast?

It doesn't exist yet, but there is one in the planning stage.  Several logistical kinks to be ironed out and we do plan to have something up and running well in time for RWC 2015 & beyond.  Though as you can see by my list above, we have a lot to live up to!!!  Watch this space.


So there you have it.  These are the shows that generally occupy my headphones and apologies if I have missed any out - feel free to let me know in the comments if so.

Whether it's on your commute to and/or from work, on your lunch break or like me during a walk in the evening, I very much suggest you add these podcasts to your weekly intake of content from the ruggersphere.

Just so long as you don't sacrifice your visits to rugby blogs in the process....JLP


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019