Elitist Rugby Journalism

Them and us, but not just in sport. The sheer irrelevance of people like George Hook, Tom McGurk and Ryle Nugent.

Sniffle : RTE… wasters, mumble, mumble, idiots *

Bock : Cappuccino is it Sniffle?

Sniffle :McGurk, smug, sanctimonious, D4, blather, blather……………. Two sugars please Bock.

Bock : You talking about NAMA? Cappuccino and an Americano please, Nancy.


There are voices we tune into, voices we like. It’s a lilt, an accent or a melody inviting the listener into the story. And like good poetry, before we ever understand the verse, we know we like the piece just from the sound if it. There’s a dearth of such voices reporting the modern game and especially the Irish game, either in the narrative or written word. The game here is still elitist for the most part, excepting those few blue-collar places where it is played equitably. Consequently, we get elitist voices with narrow prejudiced views and afterwards, we talk among our friends about our truth, our version of events and test out our theories amongst peers.


Sniffle : Ryle bloody Nugent, Gerry bloody Thornley… God give me patience.

Bock : Hook is it, Big George you mean, his harrumphing holiness?

Sniffle : *sigh*



Tom McGurk is smug. His practised composure and accent are for somewhere else, somewhere not me. I could never have a conversation with this man about anything — never mind the game. Does Ryle Nugent sound like an adoring school-boy and breathless Tracey, what is she bringing to the table? Are they like a couple of excited and privileged teenagers let loose in a world they struggle to comprehend? George Hook is idiosyncratic which in itself is interesting but the game is a raw and simple thing and just doesn’t hold up to his type of fussy scrutiny. He seems to best articulate that elitist voice within the Irish game, a voice which still echoes in the halls of Blackrock and Clongowes. Brent Pope tries his best and coming as he does from a hard place, where actions and not words count, he uses one, where George and Tom use hundreds. But RTÉ are stitched into this elitist fabric, along with Gerry Thornley’s Irish Times. Ireland is their team and they are reporting to their constituency delivering their mandate through a George conduit in a George mantra.


Bock : Howareya Dodo, sit down there girl. Sniffle, make room for the dogs and mind that pram a minute till I get her a cup of tea.

Dodo : S’up Sniffle?

Sniffle : RTE, Gerry forking Thornley, Tracy bleeding Piggott… You’re looking well Dodo darling.

Dodo : Shower of, total and utter. Remember that kerfuffle at Lansdowne Road? Same thing again at Donnybrook. Wouldn’t let the dogs in when I went up to meet Marion.


Classy music from somewhere

One of the Brookes or Buck Shelford described the game as being “the ebb and flow of spiritual momentum”. I can still hear Bill McLaren’s voice talking about John Jefferies, the “White Shark” from Kelso or a hundred other tit-bits of information (a lá Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh) about players, their clubs and families. When Len Dineen asks on 95 FM “who have it?” it makes me smile. Before the miracle match, when Munster won 33-6, Eddie Butler asked incredulously if we realised what was needed from Munster that day. (We’d skived our way into a couple of high-vis vest jobs in Thomand Park). Eddie was one of the few who’d worked out the four tries and points difference needed by Munster, he knew the final conversion was critical even if O’Gara didn’t. How many times before RTE sold out because the Government didn’t ring-fence fixtures at Thomand Park, like they did at Croaker, how many times did you turn down your TV and tune into the two Lens? I did most times. Mercifully, we can still do the same and silence the Rupert Murdoch muppets.


Bock : There you go Dodo,

Dodo : Ta Bock. A saucer for the dogs love, they like a sup of tea.

Sniffle : *sigh*


Rant Part II

This is not a democratic argument about them having a different opinion and me disagreeing but defending to the death their right to articulate it. No, this is about RTE and broadsheet coverage being total and utter shite. Unlike the renaissance in Leinster rugby, there has been no transformation within the inner sanctum that are broadcasting and reporting our game. The people who dissed Warren Gatland when he was Irish Coach, who failed to grasp the reason behind Munster’s gradual ascent and labeled it instead as an it factor, the people who dissed the Bull Hayes and Tomás O’Leary, these are the same people reporting the game now.


Dodo : Munster Cup Sniffle, remember, the pipe band, the place heaving, the crack?

Sniffle : Not anymore Dodo. *sigh*

Bock : Cop on Sniffle…


Rant End of

The colour of rugby is a passionate and bloody red, not dull grey or shrouded in black and white statistics about possession and missed tackles. Of course it’s the man’s game and the man needs to measure stuff so that eventually he can first suffocate rugby and then, choke it to death. Ryle and Co lend their compliant voices here. These drones provided the backdrop to the emergence of the most successful club and national teams in our history but failed to understand why or what the differences were between the old days and now.


Epilogue Elbow’s “One day like this” as background music.

When Declan Kidney was interviewed, I think first time round in the Munster gig, he spoke about the humanity of the players, that players turn up to training with baggage just like the rest of us. It’s difficult to place that in a statistical chart.

There is a voice for rugby, a voice which reflects the vibrancy and passion in the game. It’s multi-faceted and colorful, energetic and enthusiastic, well informed and in touch with emotional swings. It is not Neil Francis, it was never Fred Cogley or Jim Sherwin, it’s not RTE’s own cosseted fun-boy-three and definitely not Ryle, not Tony nor Tracy.

Last season I watched Ireland win the Grand Slam on radio with Michael Corcoran. He’s good. Donal Lenihan has a solid weekly column in the Examiner. The two Lens are a joy to listen to. Conor O’Shea has an excellent chance if he can lose the others. There’s hope.

I remember Tommy Creamer juggling with the pronunciations of French and Italian players which was a giggle, and I remember him explaining the reverence for the kicker which was not. Or that time we played Stade when Claw and Didier introduced themselves to each other early on, the crowd growled and the newbie Cork fella next to me said to no-one in particular “ tis like a bear pit here”.

It’s not difficult to improve on the current crop and probably, at half the price.


Bock pulls his robes around him, beckoning Dodo and the dogs to follow.

Sniffle : *sigh*

31 thoughts on “Elitist Rugby Journalism

  1. Well said sniffle,RTE not representative of the common man approach to the game down here….if they’re not D4 they’re D4 wannabes…Mcgurk from Tyrone,Hook from Cork eg. they represent the old boys club days that kept Irish rugby down for so long.I watched Ireland-France from ’93 as far as i remember the other night on tg4…Ireland eventually losing in a very entertaining game,Phil Danagher the only Limerick representative?…the very same year I along with Dodo et al walked out of D4 with the AIL yet another year where a limerick club hammerd the rest of the country into submission…the same year ireland went to Namibia and got hammered,We know well what this self serving old boys network did for rugby in this country over those decades it is only out of sheer embarassment that Gatland in his wisdom decided to address this glaring imbalance by picking the best players for each position regardless of what bloody club or province they played for.
    I have a lot of respect for messr Dineen but he’s hardly the best commentator in all fairness is he? I spent a couple of years in Oz where my only contact with the game was online and 95fm…thank Christ for that,but I remember the man declaring a try on manys an occasion and left sitting there for at least a minute in wonderment as to which side had actually scored the bloody thing.
    Nugent an absolute pain in the ass but Corcoran would be the man for the job on tv unfortunately the old boys network in rte will keep giving the good job to one of the old boys…much to their detriment.

  2. I was at the Young Munsters – St Marys game in Lansdowne as well. Brent Pope broke Frank Bros’s jaw but I believe they’re the best of pals now. They understand each other.

    More to the point, Ger Earls scored a great try and was probably the best flanker ever to come out of Munster, but because he was from the wrong side of the tracks as they perceived it, and had a big fuck-off tattoo on his leg, the IRFU establishment wouldn’t select him for Ireland and denied the country the services of a wonderful player.

    I know how proud he is of Keith, and he has every right to pride because he nurtured that young fella’s talent from the earliest age, but he must sometimes wonder what might have been.

    Ironically, Pope stands apart from his fellow commentators on TV, and would instincively have much more in common with Limerick rugby than he would with Planet McGurk.

  3. oh christ..my pet hate..Ryle ‘Pain In The Hole’ Nugent..I get a pain in the bollocks just at the mention of his name..

  4. Lads, you can bitch about the boy Nugent all day but he’s going nowhere. As RTE’s head of sport he’s actually McGurk, Hook & Pope’s boss. And whatever you think about his on screen persona he’s probably responsible for the current volume and quality (D4 bias aside) of coverage of the internatonal game.

  5. Can’t agree Sniffle. I’ve read the article twice and what comes out is a chip on a shoulder. Elites exist if you allow them. While the committee rooms of the IRFU may be full of port drinking crusties the same cannot be said of McGurk, Hook, Pope or Thornley. Having watched the HCcup on SKY last season I longed to watch RTEs coverage again. McGurk to me is a foil for Hook and Co. a la Bill on the football, and certainly gets the best from his panel. Compare to the robots on BBC and SKY. Hook regularly speaks at rugby clubs up and down the country. His fee? ZERO. Why? Because rugby and it’s people saved his life. Read his book. Many of your rugby heros do not have such a charitable lien. Thornley is one of the best rugby journalists in the country. Is it because he writes for the Irish Times that you profess to not like him? The IT offers excellent sports coverage read Keith Duggan and Tom Humphries on GAA. The Independent is anything but and has become a broadsheet tabloid. Bar the Examiner the other “papers” aren’t fit for wiping arses. Lenihan has a good article in De Paper. Mr Dineen should be brought out the back and quietly shot. He is to broadcasting what Bertie is to the truth. I read the Irish Times because in my opinion it is the best paper in this country. The standard of journalism is very high and it offers excellent coverage of life and sports. I don’t read it to potray an image. I watch the RTE rugby coverage because it is the best around. I pay my money I want the best my money can buy. I believe that I am better than no man and no man is better than me. Before I’m accused of being part of an elite, I’m from the Back of the Monument.

  6. Hey Pauliere , just the whole Donnybrook smugness that riles me. And Warren Gatland was and is still one of the better ones. Do you remember Lawrence Horatio Dellagio ( spelling ???) being shocked after Gatland was sacked by us and then getting a Wasps forwards coaching contract ? Not so fast Eddie shafted him . I think the absentmindedness is part of Len’s charm. Who have it ?

    Bock, you’re right about that jaw-breaking fucker Pope. And that story about Ger Earls at the Irish trial – no smoke without fire. He was excellent. Did you know that Colm Tucker played or the Lions before he was allowed play for Ireland .

    Dazman, think of Ryle as a thrush infection .

    Gary P, I have to bitch . Jeez what else is there to do?

    Monsieur Le, I think you were reply to Mr. Out’s piece elsewhere on these pages . But yes. Hear that they are increasing team size to 23 players to accommodate additional specialist subs.

    Map, classy broad she was .

  7. Hey # 8 , didn’t see you there . I was trying to give a sense of the collusion and clubness which I perceive in RTE, and between RTE and the IT. I find it difficult to listen to Hook , he’s pompous in the extreme. I haven’t read his book but heard that he’s been through hard time . Look to me , he’s just not Bill McLaren. Gerry Thornley doesn’t do it for me either, think his reports lack depth and understanding,. Think his heart is in the right place but no, he’s no Eddie Butler. McGuirk seems more interested in making the thing sexy and it’s just not. The theatre happens on the pitch not in the studio. And he echo’s George’s pomposity and I think sometimes Pope gets embarrassed by the two of them .

    You’re 100% correct in my view about those insufferable moppets on Sky. That Barnes fella need a hug, deserves a dig though. As you also correct about those class acts, Tom H and Keith Duggan, I just wished they worked for a less anal organisation .

    And, and, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, no. I have two huge redwoods , for huge but balanced bitterness.

  8. Sniffle, I agree re RTE at large. It is an old boys club with no room for outsiders. Tubridy, Ryan and Kenny all vastly over paid have or have had TV and Radio shows. It seems to do little to encourage new talent and don’t start me about it’s “creativity”. Maybe I’m blind to the obvious but I don’t see the IT in the same light. Yes, it is perceived as the establishments paper but you know what they say about perceptions. It is truly independent, being owned by a trust, and is free of the O’Reilly’s and Murdoch’s of this world. As for Hook not being Bill McLaren, nobody could be Bil McLaren. I expect someday to see a BA in some university on McLaren, Muirethurtaig(spelling) et al. Hook is there to be controversial, to cause arguments. He tells a story of his early broadcast days in Thomond Park accommpanied by an injured David Wallace. Walllace, a quite man, was very focused on the game. Hook said to him, “What ever I say, disagree” Hook is no fool, love or hate him he puts bums on seats, listen to him on Newstalk. Gatland was indeed shafted by O’Sullivan but some of his more senior players facilitated his removal. He made mistakes, but Gatland was the best coach that Ireland ever had. The current incumbant is a charade. Thornley lacks that nth degree of love for the game that is unique to those of us who played. True he is no Eddie Butler of Pontypool, Wales and the Lions but he is an excellent journalist. His one fault is that he gets too close to the centre of power to ask the impartial question. He possibly focuses on the politics to the cost of the game. Pope has ridden some wave. There are better analysists in most Limerick pubs but none have a southern hemisphere accent. A stupid punch immortalised him in Greenfields and he has dined out on it since. Like gentlemen, we can agree to disagree. As for the chip, it’s a Limerick thing. It makes us who we are.

  9. Bock, how very dare you? The facking liberty. I am as fat as him though …

    #8, re: the IT, I read it too and before all the others. It is the best we have but I find it’s like a tight collar or shoes a size too small or like a boa constrictor slowly squeezing the life outs me .HAH.

  10. Sniffle, you had me untill you put the words “McGurk” and “Sexy” in the same sentance :D

    In all I have to disagree with you though. I actually like Hook. His gruffness and pomp are part of his overall charm and I feel more often than not people choose to ignore the pinches of salt that should taken with a lot of his commentary. He is knowledgeable, forthright and honest in his opinions and leagues apart from the tossers over on Sky. McGurk is there as a mediator to make sure the conversation stays on track by throwing in questions he knows, more often that not, will rile hook, get Pope (I was at THAT match too, having been raised a stones throw from the yellow road myself) to have a hop of him and keep the whole thing light and entertaining but still on topic.

    As for Len Dineen… He knows his rugby inside out but the guy is so. Fucking. BORING. I want to hear commentary on the game being played, not anecdotes on someones fucking great granduncle. Get with the program, Len.

    Roll on the new season!

  11. This may explain Limerick rugby, what it means to Limerick people and its place in our city. This is a true story told to me by the man in question.

    Back in the pre Munster Stag days a certain Garryowen and Ireland scrumhalf was in town doing some messages. Being a gentleman he allowed an elderly lady to be served before him. On finishing her message she turned and thank the said international player. “No problem mam, you’re welcome”
    “Are you so and so? She asked. “I am mam” Chest slightly swelling
    “Of Garryowen and Ireland” Says she. “Indeed mam” Chest heaving.
    “Well you’d want to practice your passing, you’re very weak off your left”

    With that she was off, leaving our, somewhat deflated, international in no doubt about where he stood.

  12. Hey Dr O, I know you didn’t mean this but, it wouldn’t be difficult to be better than the Sky moppets! I suppose it’s a matter of taste then, most of my pals like the pompous ass and the whole “ you say this and then I‘ll say that “ charade so I know I’m not going to win over any newconverts. And as # 8 says, we’ll agree to disagree BUT , BUT, I can’t help but hear the fucker’s voice in places where I wouldn’t be invited into , or be able to pay into , or be able to afford . See , I can’t let the thing go, bitterest lemon in the grove me today.

  13. No 8..Gatland the best coach we ever had? to paraphrase the great movie pulp fiction ” personality goes a long way”,indeed the man was shafted but the guy stinks of personality defect to me.His arrogance and shit stirring pre cardiff this year was everything but good management…..as for the current incumbent being a “charade”,don’t know what forms this opinion,he’s probably the best man manager in the game and has consistently surrounded himself with the right people to cover whatever technical and tactical shortcomings he might have in the job.The guy is a lesson to all and sundry in humility and If 2 heineken cups and overseeing the most successful ever season in Irish rugby(leinster winning the HEC aside) is a charade,long may it continue,just hope Mcgahan has some backup gameplan this time around if things start going to shit.

  14. Can’t say I agree Sniffle, compared to the English coverage of rugby, RTE’s is a breath of fresh air. George Hook, more than any of the others, champions the less elitest clubs. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s mentioned Bruff on the show and he also wrote a fantastic article in the Indo a few years back on the formation of the club. Conor O’Shea is certainly the best analyst of the game on the show but for entertainment value you can’t beat the banter of Hook and Pope.
    Also, it’s a bit ridiculous to give out about not liking someone’s accent on the TV. It’s their accent for fucks sake, they’re not going to change it because it offends the ears of someone from a different part of the country. That gripe is no less preposterous than some Ross O’Carroll-Kelly sort complaining about Bill O’Herlihy’s Cork accent. Sports coverage is one of the few things that I reckon RTE do well, when they actually get it right they deserve to be commended.

  15. The present incumbant may well be a great man manager and have the nous to surround himself with technical staff but that doesn’y mean he is not a charade. Last year was indeed a golden year for Irish rugby, but a lot of credit must go to O’Sullivan, twat that he is. He built the team but couldn’t get the best from his players. Enter Kidney, a seemingly happier camp and hey presto, results. As for mumility, the guy is a prick. Nice and coy for the media, ask any AIL coach who dealt with him during his Munster years for their opinion.

  16. Ya heard a good few stories alright,eg Paulie begged him not to play Prendie night before Munsters were playing Dolphin in the cup and he brought him on for the last 5 minutes! Credit is indeed due to O Sullivan but there’s a prick if ever there was one. In fairness to Kidney he deals in one currency,the most important one: results,and the fucker knows how to get them,we can dress up triple crowns whatever way we like but the O Sullivan years were a failure when you look at the talent he had available to him,potential was never reached and the team became boring and far too predictable,will we ever get over the embarassment of the last world cup?Kidney’s influence has been a breath of fresh air,no doubt he had a massive effect on Leinster’s attitude last season…. Let’s see what the coming international season brings,could be a great one! Munster were worryingly shite last night though……

  17. Fair cop Mr Hoge, didn’t realize that I’d used someone’s accent against them. Shouldn’t have. Actually re-wrote that part three or four times cause it was difficult to say what I meant exactly, but it wasn’t about his accent.
    I dunno, why can’t we have Eddie Butler presenting here or Michael Corcoran? In the bad ol days, players from here abouts weren’t given a fair chance cause the Leinster establishment kept it all to themselves. There were weak clubs which I associated with this apartheid and amongst them was Wesley. Tom played with them. And I think it was he who invented the “it” factor or “factor X” or whatever it he calls it. So an ex-player from the old guard presents to the nation, and can’t understand what he’s seeing in front of him and we let him call Munster’s performances and ascent an X-factor or something else intangible. To be honest I think he’s patronizing and incapable of understanding.

  18. Hook’s a pompous, cocksmoking blowhard.

    McGurk has a face for radio and the presentation style of a pit pony.

    Nugent I can just about tolerate, until he says something.

  19. Just on the subject of accents, since Mr Hoge brings it up. There are one or two presenters on RTÉ whose accents are so fake they make me run to switch off the radio or TV because they hurt my brain.

    In any case, I think it’s fair enough to mention accents since RTE seems to have a policy of preferring the Belfield accent where possible to the exclusion of what they might perceive as “regional” accents: in other words, the quaint and bizarre tones used by those of us who haven’t chosen to rearrange our vowels at random for fear someone might think we sound like our working-class parents.

    No 8, I’m not sure what you have in mind when you say Kidney is a charade. Do you think he’s a fraud?

  20. I hear ya bock…that fuckin aa roadwatch “raundabowt” thing gets my fuckin blood boiling…there’s this blondy yoke who pops up on RTE now and again,can’t remember her name but every time she opens her mouth it’s like nails on a blackboard.These creatures can also be found in Limerick too for fucks sake,I know one from Garryowen and one from Kileelee,that’s til the smirnoff ice kicks in and all self control is lost….shoot these fuckers!!

  21. Yes Bock I think Kidney is a fraud. His public persona is entirely diferent to his behind the scenes one. I know one non contracted player who was put under pressure to travel to the UK for an end of season Magners game. To sit in the bench. He was sitting final university exams the same week. He didn’t go, He didn’t play for Munster again until Kidney had left. A current squad member was ostracised by Kidney during a long period of rehabilitation from injury. Again, didn’t play until Kidney had left. Limerick fringe players have not had their contracts renewed only to be replaced by Cork lads of similar ability. This is not paranoia, this is straight from a players mouth. Kidney may well have won 2 European Cups,(2 more than I ever will) he also lost 2 by bad decision making and leaving favourites on the field.

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