Demystifying Tommy Tiernan- The Interview

Last November I had the immense pleasure to speak with Irish funnyman, Tommy Tiernan about the risk and controversy that comes with comedy

“You’ve only one spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it”. This was undoubtedly one of the late Robin Williams’ greatest lines and is one of the reasons as to why he will be remembered for generations to come. I’m quoting this line because it resonated a lot with me while interviewing the undisputed king of Irish comedy, Tommy Tiernan. Like Williams, Tiernan’s comedic style has been deemed as off the wall over the years, but it is this madness in Tiernan’s material that makes him simply magic.

Having been in the business for nearly twenty years, Tommy is quick to brush off the idea that he ever viewed comedy as a potential career path. In fact for Tommy, a self-confessed loather of the word career, he believes it couldn’t be further away from the definition of comedy for him.

“I never really thought about comedy as a career. I used to do this joke where the word career means when a car veers off the road and ends up in a field”, laughs the Navan man.

For Tommy it is evident that comedy is as natural to him as blinking an eye or even taking a breath. It is a talent he was born with and is part of his personality. “To be able to earn a living from it was like being rewarded for walking it came that naturally to me. It felt ordinary to be up on stage throwing ideas at people and for that to end up as a way of making a living was remarkable and certainly was a surprise and a delightful one at that”

Like most comedians, Tommy enjoyed acting in his teenage years and early 20’s. Famous for his role as depressed priest Father Kevin, in hit Irish sitcom, Father Ted, where Irish comedians such as Jason Byrne and Pat Shortt earned their salt, Tommy felt acting provided him with a buzz, but was nothing compared with the exhilarating feeling that stand-up injected him with.

“As a teenager and in my early 20’s I flirted with acting, but I never really felt I had anything special”, explains Tommy. “Whereas when I stood on stage, almost irrespective of what other people thought about it, it felt to me as if something highly charged was happening and I got a great energy from that. My desire to keep doing it was almost separate from the audience’s response. But when they did laugh, whatever was charged became triply charged. It was a wonder to me”

While stage fright has been the plight of many comedians and actors out there, I ask Tommy were nerves anything he suffered from while performing at these early gigs and am surprised to find out that even after all these years and the copious awards, the comic still gets nervous before appearing on stage.

“Oh I still get nervous. I get really nervous nowadays when I’m doing television, amazingly nervous”, admits the 45 year old, who first appeared on the Late Late Show in 1997. “In the beginning, I always came offstage having forgotten all of the bad bits and only remembering when people laughed. One of my first gigs was about 45 minutes long and I’d say I came offstage intoxicated by the two or three times that I’d made people laugh. It was completely dubious in my memory to the bits that hadn’t worked. So I had that myopia from the beginning, not through any effort or mind training, to automatically cut out the negativity”

This method of Tommy’s to block out all the bad feedback he had received while on stage was surely the reason for his immediate success as a stand-up comedian. Collecting his material from everyday situations and societal issues in Ireland, Tommy remarks that inspiration for his jokes comes from anywhere and everywhere.

“It comes from everywhere. Even this morning I’m just thinking about tiredness and why everyone is so tired all the time and what’s wrong culturally that we’ve become a tired tribe. We seek energy through stimulants and exercise and I’m wondering what energy we cut ourselves off from that makes us so tired. So things that aren’t necessarily comedic, but when you go onstage you try and make jokes out of the ideas. The pressure of the comedic environment and the pressure of the situation can make those ideas funny. So I don’t write in the normal sense, I just collect ideas”

Another thing critics have deemed far from normal about Tommy’s gigs in the past were his sketches regarding the Catholic Church and Downs Syndrome.  While Tommy himself admits that material in shows can be somewhat sensitive, he believes this is a very small percentage.

“The stuff I do that can be called controversial is so small. I don’t think anybody ever comes to my show thinking it was a controversial show. They might think he was a bit mental there, but that’s not really controversy” says the funnyman

Asking him has he ever had to change his stage routine due to audience discomfort, the Meath man reflects for a moment upon diving into a story about a conversation he had with a man at a petrol station last year. “I was talking to a fellow in Carlow who started telling me that material I did on television was disgraceful and I wasn’t disagreeing with him, but I said something to him and in his answering to me he was more prejudiced about Downs syndrome than I was. It was a really odd situation. So I started telling that story onstage and a woman with a child who had Down Syndrome came up to me after the show and said she could see the point that I was making and that this guy’s reaction was prejudiced and how my material wasn’t prejudiced, but she still felt really uncomfortable with it”

So I decided I was going to drop it from the show”, continues Tommy. “Even when you talk about someone else’s bigotry it’s still uncomfortable for some people. So I said it is too confusing and left it”

However, while Tommy may have changed his material on this one occasion, his shows which have included “Bovinity” and “Crooked Man”, remain as vibrant and as hilarious as ever. For Tommy comedy has always been about taking chances and risk is probably the prime factor for his involvement in the RTE Documentary, Tommy: To Tell You the Truth”, recently. The show saw Tommy complete a series of 12 consecutive gigs across Europe with little or no material. Tommy fallen out of love with the regular stand-up format?

“Not really”, says Tommy earnestly “I was doing improvisation shows in Galway that were going well and I was very excited by the total creativity in it. So I decided to do something that was very risky. I’d never done improv at night, they were always lunchtime shows. Or I’d never done it where people had been drinking or when the ticket price had been quite high or never on consecutive nights. I wanted to be part of a documentary about risk and to demystify risk and to show something that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed work out. This would ultimately be interesting for people to see. It wasn’t just PR material, going ‘Oh look at this guy, he’s fantastic’ It was an odd one.

So after this experience does Tommy feel that improvisation shows are more organic and essentially funnier than your standard stand-up gig?

“I’m committed to the improvisation way of working”, adds Tommy philosophically. “It’s something you can improve on. The improv shows are better than the material shows, but are much more different to perfom. They’re very hard, but worth it. You’re making it up on the spot so you are automatically on the same wave length as to whatever audience you are talking to. You could do an improv show in a prison or an old folk’s home or a convent and you’re automatically in the same mind frame as your audience. Like if I did a gig in Mexico and tried to talk about Henry Sheflin that would be difficult”, laughs Tommy

“But all the signposts I’m getting is that improvisation is the way to go. It’s much riskier, but it’s much better”, adds Tommy

While Tiernan is now completing his Whirlwind tours in Ireland and the UK, the title of his new DVD, Stray Sod, is based on the Celtic Myth of a man being disorientated by his surroundings.

“Stray Sod is mainly stories collected from touring Ireland for five years. The DVD Crooked Man and Stray Sod are similar in a sense in that they draw inspiration from those travels. The Whirlwind shows I’m doing at the moment are heavily improvised, not totally, but there is a fierce amount in it”

Performing his first proper stand-up gig in Cork in 1995, Tommy will once more take to the rebel stage in February, as he graces the Cork Opera House .Having achieved so much in his comedic “career”, does Tommy feel there is still more he can give to comedy or even comedy can give to him?

“I’m keen to keep going”, says Tommy enthusiastically “I’m doing a lot more work in England and I’m keen to do a lot of European work. I’m always trying to find where the energy and sense of adventure is and if you’ve the privilege of being able to direct your own work then I think you should exercise that privilege. I’m in a position now where I feel if I’m getting more energy from doing stand-up in Slovenia than Sligo, that’s what I’ll do!”

The Irish scene has of course become more crowded since Tommy first donned the stage back in the mid-nineties, with television and social media it’s easier to get noticed, but it’s also harder.

“There’s such a fierce amount of stand-up on English TV that it’s easier to surprise people, but at the same time stuff on TV is very formulated and similar”, says Tommy “I’m doing stand-up almost 20 years and I don’t think acts now are much different to acts then. There isn’t a fierce mount of stand up on Irish TV. It’s still bohemian, it hasn’t been neutered. It’s still fairly wild out there”

Since Tommy is the hero of many up and coming comedians out there, is there anybody’s comedic style that Mr Tiernan was inspired by starting out?

“I really liked Dylan Moran”, muses Tommy, “but you can be inspired by anything”. “You can be inspired by a tree or a book you read or by musicians and the feelings they create on stage. Inspirations come from everywhere and are not confined”

As our conversation is coming to a close, I ask Tommy what advice he would give to burgeoning stand-up artists out there, a question which answer with considerable conviction.

“I’d give the same advice as I’d give to someone doing it 40 years”, says Tommy in his honest tone “You should use the stuff that makes you laugh. You can get into a thing in comedy when you know what works. It might not necessarily make you laugh, but you know it works and that is a creative cul-de-sac”

“The open road, the trip that’s full of surprises is what makes you laugh”, concludes Tommy “It’s harder going, but much more rewarding”

And as we both say our goodbyes I feel as if I’ve been at a one-to-one stand-up gig aswell as a therapy session. Perhaps that’s what makes Tommy’s humour so hilarious and thought provoking; his ability to hack into the human persona while making us howl for laughter in the process

Tommy’s new DVD, Stray Sod, is out now

Stars and The Strypes- Interview with The Strypes’ Evan Walsh

Stars and The Strypes:

I speak with drummer Evan Walsh from The Strypes in the midst of recording their second album ‘Little Victories’ last November

Lenny Kravitz once sang “Rock and Roll is Dead”, but in speaking with Evan Walsh, drummer of hit Irish rhythm and blues band, The Strypes, it’s clear that rock is living and breathing as powerfully as it was fifty years ago. While The Telegraph may have called them “pint-sized versions of the early Rolling Stones”, the Cavan quartet consisting of singer/harpist Ross Farrelly,  guitarist/singer Josh McClorey, bassist Pete O’ Hanlon and  drummer, Evan Walsh have been jamming since the beginning of their existence. And who says it matters that this existence only began in the mid to late nineties?

“We formed the band out of a childhood interest”, begins drummer Evan, who like all the band members is still in his teenage year’s. “Myself and the bass player Pete hung around with each other all our lives. Our parents knew each other and we spent our lives growing up together. We’d get together and jam since the beginning of our existence really. We formed the band as just something to do as a hobby, we were all interested in music”

While these days most teenager’s Ipod’s are plugged into the likes of whatever preppy piece of pop the music industry has to throw at them, The Strypes music influences date back from a day where Vinyl wasn’t reserved for hipsters and where Spotify couldn’t have been misinterpreted as some sort of medical condition. Evan and indeed the entire band’s knowledge and respect for early rock and roll is certainly something to be admired.

“It all began at a young age, we’d listen to whatever our parents listened to when we were young”, says the drummer. “It was when we were in our teenage years that we got into rhythm and blues music and early rock and roll. We listened to Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, punk bands and new wave bands like Dr Feelgood, The Jam and The Clash. It’s really just from our own musical interest and research with the help of our parents and their experience as well. We wanted to find out about different types of music. It’s just something that came to us naturally”

This natural admiration that the band have for early rock and roll, has been a major factor in influencing their collective sound as a group. Shunning electronic riffs and techno beats, The Strypes prefer nothing better than good old-fashioned rock n’ roll with their own modern twist.

“Our sound is basically rhythm and blues music with punk and new wave influence. It all goes back to Chuck Berry in the end, but we play it in our own style”, says Evan. “We want to play gigs in our own energetic and trashy way. We’re basically a garage band. It’s a basic, no bull-shit sort of thing which is different from what everybody else is doing at the minute”

It’s undoubtedly this difference in the band’s outlook and performance style that allowed the band to transform from merely messing around with tunes in their bedroom to shaking up the world of rock and like all good things, it began on the Late Late Show. While I suggest that the boy’s 2010 Toyshow performance launched their career, Evan is quick to brush this off.

“That was very early on. One of our friends who isn’t in the band, played with us that night. We just did that like any child auditions and goes on the Toyshow. We were just kids messing about then, to be honest”

Even though the Toyshow appearance may have been just for fun, fast forward two years later to December 2012 the band had become The Strypes and secured a record deal backed by Elton John. This eventually culminated in a period of intense nationwide touring by the band and a debut album in September 2013. The album which received rave reviews from young and old alike was described by the Guardian as a “bowel-shaking rhythm and blues explosion” and reached No. 2 and No. 5 in the Irish and UK Charts respectively. With songs such as “What a Shame” and “Blue-Collar Jane” reaching commercial and radio success, were the band happy with the album even though they compiled it at such a young age?

“You’re never going to be completely happy with how things turn out in real life, but with all the pros and cons considered, we were delighted with the album”, says Evan “We were delighted with the success of going Top 5 in the UK and number 2 in Ireland. You couldn’t ask for much more than that really. We signed the record contract and we felt we wanted to make an album and tour and have the full band experience. It was very exciting and enjoyable”

2013 really was a year to remember for the Cavan crew, not only did they receive critical and commercial acclaim for their debut album, they also supported British band, The Arctic Monkeys on their UK arena tour. While the band are known for their admiration of music from an earlier era, working with The Arctic Monkeys was an honour for The Strypes.

“Josh is a big fan of The Arctic Monkeys. He loves Alex Turner’s lyrics and we like them as a band. It was great playing with them and the tour was very enjoyable. We were treated so well. They really are pleasant to be around”

Asked whether The Arctic Monkeys are a modern music inspiration for The Strypes, Evan steers away from the band being tied down to any particular genre. “We are influenced by all sorts of music from different eras and we always decide to do something different. We’re not going down the road of carving our own niche”

In the midst of treadmill like touring and impressive album sales, did thoughts of schooling or formal education ever enter the bandmates’ minds?

“We were encouraged to leave school to be honest”, says Evan in his unmistakable Cavan accent. “It was never something any of us got any pleasure out of really. We left school at sixteen. Record company interest coincided with school leaving age which was handy and we left in September 2012 and signed a deal in December. Our parents said to us that we had an opportunity to do something different. You know even if it crashes and burns horribly they said we’d still have done something that not many people have gotten to do”

So far, The Strypes have managed to avoid the crashing and burning typical of most bands formed in their teenage years. Having played their third Electric Picnic this year, Evan explains the thrill the band get when performing

“Well I mean it was our third Electric Picnic and it was a brilliant experience. It was the biggest stage we’d played. We’ve always had a great relationship with the festival; it has a great atmosphere and lovely location”

However, while the band enjoys the enormity of the Electric Picnic main stage, their rhythm and blues sound truly comes to life when they play in more intimate venues.

“The kind of gigs we prefer are 600, maybe 800 capacity clubs. Everything gets intense and sweaty and you get that sort of primal aggression that’s at the surface of rock gigs. That’s the sort of gigs we really like when it’s closed and intense. It’s a very different feeling to Electric Picnic”

Fresh from playing one of these beloved intimate gigs in the Savoy Venue at Cork’s Jazz Weekend in October, the Strypes are set to embark on a nationwide tour of Ireland in December, kicking off in their hometown of Cavan where the lads still reside.

“We did this last year aswell and we live in Cavan, so we’re well used to it. It’s great to be playing at home, you don’t have to get on a bus, and you can play in your own backyard. We’re kicking off in Cavan and going all around- Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Derry, Sligo”

The lads are currently working on their second album. While the second album curse can be a make or break for many bands, The Strypes are following the same musical ethos that they used on Snapshot.

“We wanted the second album to be a continuation of what we’ve been doing. A typical pitfall of other bands is ‘Oh it’s our second album, we’ve to start taking ourselves seriously. It should be an expression of the soul”. We just think we should build on what we’ve done, we’ve some different influences aswell though. Uniformly we still sound like the same band, but with more grown up matter”

With bands like U2 still rocking out records after thirty years of success, it seems like The Strypes have a bright future ahead of them and likewise so has rock n’roll.

A Rose of Our Time- Maria Walsh Interview

Rose of tralee image

I met with 2015 Rose of Tralee Winner, Maria Walsh.

Like all things popular, the International Rose of Tralee Competition has received its fair share of mixed commentary in the past. From being compared to a beauty pageant and parodied in what is now a famous Father Ted episode, where Ted presents a “Lovely Girls Competition”, the festival is no stranger to being both mocked and marvelled.

But for 2015 Rose of Tralee winner, Maria Walsh, being called a lovely lady is something she views as a compliment. “There’s a lot of talk of Father Tedisms, but I don’t know. I really am confused as to when lovely lady became such a negative connotation. I would love to be called a lovely lady”, begins the 27 year old who was born in Boston, but raised in Co. Mayo. “You meet someone and you say she is lovely, what’s wrong with that?”

Having moved back to the United States to work, Maria is currently based in Philadelphia where she has lived for the last three years. Working for the high profile fashion company, Anthropologie, which is linked to Urban Outfitters, Maria has had a lot of explaining to do for her American colleagues with regard to what the Rose of Tralee actually is.

“When I speak about it with them they see the similarities to Miss America, and I say ‘No, it’s far from it’, but I understand why they would think that. For me, it’s a celebration of the quality of Irish women in our diaspora” Despite the confusion among her workmates as to what the Rose of Tralee actually entails, Maria admits that the company came to a standstill for her stint on television representing Philadelphia in Tralee.

“The entire company watched the Tralee show. A lot of them have generations of Irishness in them, so it was great for them”

.The Rose of Tralee had been on Maria’s mind for some time and with only a few more years left to enter, Maria decided to submit her name in 2014.

“When I moved from Boston to                Mayo I grew up watching the festival and like many women it was something I wanted to do, it was always on the bucket list and as I got older I understood everything it encompassed .I wanted to represent Mayo or some place I called home and that really became Philadelphia for me for me in the last few years”

Being an active member of the Irish community in Philadelphia, Maria has fallen even more in love with her Irish heritage and culture since moving from her native West of Ireland home in Shrule, Co. Mayo.

Yes heritage becomes more important when you move away. I play football so immediately wherever I go I try and find a football team. You just want to embrace what you know and you meet other people who’ve travelled the world and who are trying to build a base. Philadelphia has a wonderful Irish community, a lot of older members, members from Mayo and Tyrone. We are a bit of a new age coming through at the moment.

Having enjoyed her experience as a regional rose, Maria was shocked when Dáithí O Sé crowned her as International Rose of Tralee last August. Being a bit more outspoken than former winners, Maria Walsh believes her family and indeed the entire Rose community where surprised by her clinching of the title.

“No I wasn’t expecting it”, says the Boston born brunette. “I think the Rose of Tralee committee are still shocked to be honest! People at home only see what’s on TV. It’s such a shame they don’t see the real depth and quality of each girl. For me, I was so lucky because I got the chance to meet fifty-nine other young women from different parts of the world. It was such an exciting time”

Winning the Rose of Tralee title has opened many doors for Maria, allowing her to develop as a person and achieve things she would never have thought possible, such as charity and community work in both Ireland and further afield.

“I travelled to Kolkata with the Hope foundation in November. It was a fantastic experience. It was a different part of the world, probably something I would never have seen and that’s what’s so brilliant about this Rose of Tralee family, it gives you the opportunity to do that. I also travelled to South Africa and will be travelling to Chernobyl with Adi Roche”

Another aspect of Maria’s personality which she holds dear to heart is the fact she is a Pioneer, abstaining from alcohol and other substances. In a culture where night-life and socialising seems to revolve around alcohol and binge-drinking, I ask the Rose has she ever struggled with her life-long pledge?

“I grew up with it”, begins the Rose in her unique accent which combines both North-American and Mayo quirks. “People are more curious as to how I spend my Friday and Saturday nights even though I’m always first on the dance floor. I get a range of questions- ‘Have you ever drank?’ ‘No’. ‘You must have had champagne?’ ‘No’.”

Since it’s a decision Maria made at the tender age of twelve, being a non-drinker is an integral part of her identity. “It’s fairly easy for me. I think it is harder for people who have drank and then choose to give it up than it is for me. This is how I’ve always been. I made the decision to be a pioneer when I was 12. My mother is a pioneer so it’s no foreign concept to me”

Another aspect of Maria’s identity, which she spoke about upon winning the competition, is being gay. As being the first openly gay Rose of Tralee, was it difficult for the Rose to publicly come out as homosexual?

“No, because I have spoken out as being gay for a number of years”, admits Maria in her never less than eloquent style.  “My folks knew and so did my friends. It was just something that was one aspect of me, Maria Walsh, another part of my identity. I would talk more about being a Pioneer than being a member of the LGBT community. Like I said earlier it’s wonderful that we can allow a young person to feel more comfortable in their own skin. I hope that if one person feels more comfortable in themselves and are able to talk about their sexuality with their close friends or family, then I have definitely fulfilled my role as a Rose”

Like many gay or straight people, we all struggle with something”, continues the Rose “We’ve got an incredibly high suicide rate, particularly with young people, sexuality can be the number 1 culprit of that. It takes a while regardless if you’re 14 or 27 like I am, but you need to remain in the mind-set that you are here for a reason”

While Maria is obviously an ambassador for members of the LGBT community and young people as a group, the term “role-model” is not something that Maria likes to refer to herself as “Role model doesn’t sit with me. We’ve so many other great role models for the LGBT community. If I help one person I’ve fulfilled everything I’ve ever wanted with the Rose of Tralee”

Continuing in our conversation about equality and sexuality, I ask whether or not the Rose would identify herself as a feminist, a concept which has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent months due to celebrities such as Emma Watson doing wonders for the cause. Perhaps not expecting the question the Rose instead promotes general equality.

“There is parts of all of us that should be feminists” says the Rose “Women in the workplace, women in the home, I am a young woman and I push for any rights that promote equality between men and women”

Maria and the Rose of Tralee team are currently completing a gruelling fifteen-day trip around Ireland visiting schools, charities and other Rose centres in order to promote the Rose of Tralee Festival. In a world where young people seem more engrossed in the idea of social networking, rather than networking in front of an a jam-packed dome in Tralee, Maria and the team have quite a task on their hands encouraging young women to enter. Maria’s answer to recruiting entries for the festival is very much Carpe Diem-like, encouraging young women to grab life’s opportunities.

“Life is too short, you can always say maybe next year, but the age group is 18-27, so there’s not a whole bunch of next years within that”, says Maria “We all have great personal stories to share and I think a lot of people get lost in the idea that you need a talent -that you need to be able to sing or dance or recite a poem, but that’s not the case.It teaches you to be a lot more comfortable in your own skin and I don’t think we promote it as much as we should.  It helps you prepare for college and work life.  And how do deal with different personalities and charities, like I have”

As my time with the Rose in demand comes to a close, I ask her one final question – how would she like to leave her own special mark as Rose of Tralee?

“I’d like to gain awareness for how great the festival is and get people to respect it”, muses Maria philosophically “It’s far ahead of its time than people give it credit for and always has been.  I’d like to raise awareness and get people to talk about it more.

“Sometimes I say that I wish there were more days in the week or  I wish I could have achieved a lot more, but you have to take each day as it comes, there is always tomorrow”

Anchor Man- Bill O’ Herlihy Interview

I speak with broadcasting legend Bill O’ Herlihy as he reflects on his career, life after retirement and the challenges that domestic sport’s broadcasting faces.

“I was 49 years on TV. The time had come. Nothing was going to happen this summer and so I thought I might as well look at it in a practical way. I got a fantastic send off and I was absolutely humbled”, says former sports journalist and broadcaster, Bill O’ Herlihy. While soccer fans worldwide were concerned with the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, it was an equally bittersweet day for Irish followers of sport as they would see their broadcasting hero, O’ Herlihy hang up his boots for the last time.

A native of Glasheen, Cork, situated only a short stroll away from UCC campus, O’ Herlihy began as a journalist with The Cork Examiner and became a sub-editor there at the age of 16. With a strong tradition of journalism in his family, Bill has nothing but praise for the newspaper he learned his craft in “It was a great environment to work; they were very encouraging. There was a great mentoring system there”

In 1966 Bill made the transition from newspaper journalism to television and although he may cringe at memories of his first television broadcast, he recognises that his entrance into the world of broadcasting was during a period of huge transformation when the industry was still developing“I was the luckiest guy in the world because I was involved in television at a time of huge change. The programme Newsbeat was the first show to broadcast stories from rural Ireland, very much like Nationwide. I was also lucky to be in current affairs in a time of great change reflects the 76 year old Corkman, obviously still humbled by his success.

However, Bill’s time at the helm of current affairs broadcasting was cut-short upon a government enquiry into the reporting on the show 7 Days which he worked on. Reflecting on the fiasco, Bill realises that it did great damage to current affairs and investigative journalism in Ireland.

“RTE was in many ways set up to be an arm of government, suddenly the government thought they were being treated very harshly by current affairs which was evaluating their performance and being quite critical. They looked at the reporting on that programme and it was found not to be authentic- which was bullshit. There was huge damage done to current affairs broadcasting and it’s only in the last 10 years that it’s got back on its feet again, it was very passive for a long time”

Bill’s dalliance with current affairs would prove beneficial upon his entrance into the world of sport’s broadcasting. In a career which  saw him anchor coverage for 10 Olympic Games, 9 World Cups and countless Premier Leagues and Champion Leagues, it’s ironic how one of his earliest colleagues commented on his unsuitability to the sport’s department. “Michael O’ Hehir told me ““You’re welcome but I don’t want you. Your image is all wrong for sport, you’re a real tough broadcaster, that’s not how we perform in sport””, laughs Bill

O’ Herlihy is most celebrated for his work alongside the famed panel of soccer analysts, Eamon Dunphy, John Giles and Liam Brady. Bill looks back on his time chairing the controversial trio with great fondness in his career, taking his inspiration from broadcasting stalwarts Michael Parkinson and Gay Byrne.

My function was to make sure the guests look good. I took my advice from Michael Parkinson and Gay Byrne. They never overwhelmed their guests. I made sure I brought out the best in the lads. We all knew our jobs. My knowledge of football was infinitely lower than their knowledge of football” asserts Bill

While the panel may have been a source of entertainment for Irish viewers throughout the years (who can forget those infamous Après Match spoofs?) from the outset one of their major aims was to educate a country that had denied it’s passion for soccer for so long.

“We discovered a survey done on soccer at the time of the 1990 World Cup that only 30% of people in Ireland understood the game. We had a job then to entertain them number one and create an understanding of the game. Eamon and John particularly did that and more laterally Liam Brady”

Having touched on the 1990 World Cup and I myself being born five years too late to experience the epic tournament, I ask Bill what it was like working during such a revolutionary time in soccer broadcasting.

“It was an extraordinary time in Ireland. We had a wonderful editor called Maurice Reidy. He made sure that all coverage of the World Cup wasn’t just about soccer, but was about Ireland. He made it a very inclusive broadcast. We brought in Gaelic Games people, schools and community groups. In fact I was told by one of the execs that everybody over the age of  5 watched the penalty shootout  when David O’ Leary got the goal and George Hamilton came up with the great line ‘the nation holds its breath’ “

Like when he entered the field, Bill is aware that sport’s broadcasting is currently going through a period of change, as big players like Sky Sport’s threaten the very existence of terrestrial sport’s coverage. “I saw a story in one of the papers today that the Six Nations could go to pay- for-TV. RTE can’t compete financially with BT or Sky Sports. Having it on free- to-air TV is essential for the development of sport. One thing you might find and I hope I’m wrong that Sky sports dominate to such an extent that all you’ll get on terrestrial TV will be delayed transmission”

With numerous awards under his belt which exemplify his stellar career in sport’s journalism, I ask Ireland’s most acclaimed and liked broadcaster, what are the necessary characteristics needed to succeed in the ever-changing field of sport’s broadcasting?

“The ideal thing would thing to do would be to concentrate on a particular game and focus on becoming an expert on that sport. You have to start off local and make that path for yourself. Nobody is going to be picked from obscurity” So although O’ Herlihy believes he was “the luckiest man in the world”, it’s clear that a lot of this luck has to be self-made in an ever-developing industry.

A Woman’s Heart- An Interview with Cathy Kelly

Last November I spoke with bestselling author Cathy Kelly, about writing, women and having a PhD in People.

Since publishing her debut novel, Woman to Woman, in 1997, Cathy Kelly has become Ireland’s most successful female author. Having previously outsold J.K Rowling and Dan Brown, the 48 year old is undoubtedly the nation’s sweetheart.

As a child Cathy was a self-confessed bookworm, so it is of no surprise she has reached such dizzy heights of acclaim both in the literary and commercial sense

“I was a huge reader as a kid”, begins the mother of two in her warm-hearted tone “There are very few writers who start and who haven’t been enormous readers. I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of Malcom Gladwell’s work’s, but one of his book’s, Outliers, looks at people succeeding in particular areas and he talks about the 10000 hour rule. People like Bill gates who get really involved in something spend an awful lot of time at it”

“Not that I’m comparing myself to these people”, the author is quick to point out “But I read hugely as a child. People who want to write have to read because if you’re not a reader it is very difficult to become a writer, it’s not impossible, but it’s like saying I want to be a dress designer and never having seen a dress!”

Having worked as a journalist for the popular Sunday World, in the eighties and nineties, as a news reporter and later as a features writer and agony aunt, Cathy admits that she always felt somewhat inadequate and not quite cut out for the hard-hitting world of news writing.

“There were wonderful sides to it and wonderful people there and lots of fascinating and amazing experiences”, says Cathy, “I think I was a hard news reporter at first. It’s very difficult and you’ve to be a particular type of person to do that successfully and I was probably too soft. In those days by god you worked hard at it in the 80’s because you couldn’t just leave your job and I felt it was my fault that I was not quite right”

Upon expanding into more features writing with the newspaper, Cathy began to find her niche as a journalist, preferring to focus in on feelings and emotions that went with the stories, rather than the cold facts.

 “ I became more comfortable with feature writing where I could write larger articles focusing on the stories behind the news stories” Cathy grateful of her routes in journalism continues  “The plus that journalism gives you is that it teaches you enormous discipline as a writer because you have to sit down and work and it’s very Alice in Wonderland as you open a door to another world and you see experiences which are vital for a writer”

Cathy’s successful stint as an agony aunt would also prove to be a significant contribution to her work as a writer. Answering queries from distressed readers on a weekly basis allowed Cathy to gain, as she calls it “A PhD in people”.

Putting these life experiences and knowledge of the human psyche into practice, Cathy finally began working on her first novel. This wasn’t the first time she had endeavoured to stitch a story together however,

It was funny. I tried a couple times to write, but never what was in me”, admits the bestselling author “When I was 17 I decided to write about a women running a hotel, but knew damn all about running a hotel. It went nowhere. In 1994 my partner said stop talking about it. I’d been talking about it all my life. I’ll write what’s in me and what I like to read. You can’t think of the people you work with criticising it or you can’t think of your mother reading it. You have to write what’s in you!”

Three books later, Cathy abandoned her career as a journalist and became a full-time writer in 2001, topping best-seller lists across the globe. With many critics declaring that Cathy’s success has been on a similar level to the late Maeve Binchy’s, I ask Cathy was the Dublin-born writer a source of inspiration for her?

“The great thing about Maeve, was that she was a genius and she made this thing look very simple”, says Cathy. “It was like a fabulous piece of tapestry but you couldn’t see the drawing at the back. She was a huge inspiration. When I started out with my first book, she had a big party at her house for writers and I was invited, I nearly died!” she laughs “I felt like a complete charlatan. She was very warm and I’m a huge believer in female mentorship. It’s important that women do stick together and help each other”

With her new novel, It Started With Paris, sure to be a stocking filler in most households this Christmas, Cathy starts talking about the plot behind her novel and her inspiration for putting it together, “I was half way through the last book, The Honey Queen which has a character in it who is widowed”, explains Cathy. “I thought it would be interesting to write about women who are on their own. So I thought of this idea with three characters. One of who is a young widow with a son struggling to cope, one who is left by her toe-rag of a partner and finally Grace who is in her fifties and has just gotten divorced”

Having spoken at length about the plot of the novel, Cathy finally jokes “They say you need to be able to explain your plot in 20 words for a Hollywood pitch, that’s why I’ll never have a film made!”

However, while for some being a dedicated author, wife and mother would be enough to keep them occupied, Cathy is also an active ambassador for UNICEF Ireland and speaks of her work with the charity passionately“When I was a journalist I was very interested in women’s rights. I wrote a lot about domestic abuse, poverty and prostitution. Getting a chance to work with UNICEF is a continuation of that work and a huge passion of mine”, declares Cathy

Finally, Cathy gives her last piece of advice to budding writers out there with her trademark of compassion “Take care of your mental health. Don’t try and be the next “X”, be the next “You” and take it from there”

Never Go Out Of Style- Stylist Courtney Smith Interview

I catch up with top Irish stylist, Courtney Smith on  St Patrick’s Day

“I’m a people watcher”, says Courtney Smith, international stylist hailing from the picturesque coastal town of Malahide, South Dublin. While her affection for people watching may suggest she is some kind of stalker, for Ms Smith the only thing worth stalking in life is style. “Even at New York Fashion Week I love sitting in café’s and seeing what people are wearing, discovering new trends and things like that. My style has always been quite bohemian so I love fringing and people like Nicole Richie, Kate Bosworth and the Olsen Twins”

While Courtney views these red-carpet celebrities as her style inspirations, the bubbly Dubliner is fast-becoming a style icon in her own right. Having been a cult follower of fashion from a young age, Courtney went on to study design after school and travelled to London to complete a post-graduate course in styling in the prestigious London College of Fashion.

“I guess if you ask my parents I was always really interested in fashion from a young age. I’d be cutting up patches of material and things like that”, laughs the fashionista “I studied design in Ireland and then did a post-grad in London which was a huge learning curve for me. Being away from friends and family makes it difficult to cope but I certainly enjoyed it. Back then there were much less styling courses in Ireland so I had no choice but to go to London and study styling”

At the age of 21 Courtney began working as a professional stylist in London, styling high-profile clients from Leona Lewis to Amy Winehouse. Being thrown in at the deep-end at such a young age is where Courtney credits she learned her craft. Having to deal with a range of personalities with different style tastes can be a challenge, but working for a set brand makes this task easier.

“I styled a lot of people in London and I was working for a brand which was quite funky so the clients obviously liked the clothes. Amy Winehouse was with us for a bit but then left, I couriered her a lot of items. I also styled Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud” says Courtney modestly

Having completed successful campaigns for Newbridge Silverware starring Amy Huberman and most recently, Roz Purcell in the promotion of their eShe jewellery line, Courtney declares that she is more at home with magazine shoots as they provide her with room to experiment.

“I usually prefer styling for magazine editorials and photoshoots because there is more freedom. The type of clothes used in commercial shoots are much different to clothes used in magazine shoots”, says Courtney who’s work regularly appears on the glossy pages of The Sunday Independent’s, Life Magazine.  “Even the styles I create on TV3 for Xpose are a lot different to magazine shoots. Xpose is a commercial show watched by a commercial audience, so that has to be taken into account”

Courtney now spends the majority of her time working in Ireland, despite travelling to London on a regular basis to look after international clients. For Courtney there is a clear difference in the British and Irish fashion industries, with the most major difference of all being size.

“Ireland is a lot smaller than the UK and I think we are always a little bit behind on the trends, maybe just by a few months. Also we don’t have as big a budget, so we encounter problems like that and there just aren’t as many fashion magazines to do big photoshoots and editorials for”

Like many people working in the Irish Fashion industry, Smith is acutely aware of how important it is to support Irish designers and home-grown magazines in order to allow the sector to flourish.

“I had a ticket for a really big show at New York Fashion Week but I chose to go to an Irish designer obviously because they are Irish and we need to support that. Even at London Fashion Week, Paul Costello has been there for many years and Simone Rocha is showcasing her stuff. John Rocha doesn’t have his show anymore, but I always used to go to that. So it is extremely important I think. Many designers have made it in the UK and internationally which is great for them and the industry”

Although Courtney is now Ireland’s top stylist and highly acclaimed internationally, her success is the result of years of hard work. While upon her return to Ireland, Smith was offered positions in retail, she didn’t take them, knowing that styling was her true calling. “It was the start of the recession and my Mum thought I was mad for not taking these jobs but I knew styling was what I wanted to do. I started writing for a blog which at the time was quite big, it was called wow.ie, they paid me and that tipped me over while I was waiting for more gigs to come. It took a long time, but perseverance is the key if it’s what you really want to do, it will happen, but not overnight”

As my conversation with one of the world’s most vibrant fashion names comes to a close, I grab my chance to quiz Courtney about her style tips for the summer season ahead. “White and tan seems to be a big trend actually which isn’t great for those of us with pale skin because it means we’ll have to be putting on the fake tan. Fringing, pastels, lace… there really seems to be an L.A summer vibe going on for the summer which is great”

Walking On Stars- Walking On Cars Interview

It’s 6: 30 pm at Indiependence Music and Arts Festival and I’m sitting with lead singer Patrick Sheehy and drummer Evan Hadnett of hit Irish band Walking on Cars. The three other bandmates are busy pitching a tent before they headline the event at 9pm. It’s a venue the band have been playing for the last few years working their way from the smaller stages to this year finally hitting the main arena. “We’re very excited, we played here three years ago and last year, and this year we are playing the bigger stage”, muses lead singer Pa in his unapologetic Dingle accent.

2014 has been one hell of a year for the five-piece Dingle band. Having been slogging away on the music scene since 2010, the band secured a new record deal In January. But surely there was a time when the five band members just wanted to pack it all in and get a “normal “job? “We were all in college”, says Pa “We just wanted to gig. Sometimes it was in front of only three or four people, but gradually it got bigger”

And it certainly did get bigger and better for the band. In 2012 their song Catch Me If you Can reached a respectable number 27 on the Irish charts and in a world where the craziness of Miley Cyrus wins out in the charts, this position is no mean feat. Its head-banging chorus, coupled with an insanely quirky video allowed the band to break free from just jamming in their bedroom to become a household name. The video which is set in their native Dingle, is certainly a tribute to the town. While speaking to the band it is clear that Dingle and indeed the entire south-western county is close to the band’s heart. Having formed the band as five school friends from Dingle and played one of their first gigs in their local Youth Cafe in the town, the band are very proud of their routes.

“The whole town is completely behind us. Everybody knows everybody. It’s true that our first gig was in the Youth Café. We don’t really like to talk about it”, laugh both lads as crew clamber outside the pokey porta-cabin we are sitting in.

The video for their latest release Hand in Hand is as gripping as the former, documenting the sinister ways in which strangers can connect. When I mention to the lads the disturbing plot of a girl being held hostage by her lover in this video, they erupt into a volcano of laughter.“We do have control of our videos, but the record company sent us on a few different stories for the video and we chose this one. The more interesting the better we thought anyway”, says Pa who is still chuckling to himself.

When speaking of their enthralling videos which appear on Youtube, it is impossible not to mention the 1.3million views their videos have received on the site. With over 31,000 Facebook likes and a loyal Twitter following of over 10,000, the band are well aware of how important a factor social media has been to their success.

“I don’t think we’d be where we are today without social media”, say Pa as he jerks his head over to Evan who is in obvious agreement. “I don’t know how bands back in the day did it. Something gets retweeted these days and everyone can see it, it’s great”

While nobody would blame the lads if the success had gone to their heads, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are as eager as I am, answering every question with enthusiasm and are humbled by what they’ve achieved, knowing that it could all end in a heartbeat.

Hailed for their glorious live gigs, in which Pa’s husky tones are accompanied by booming drums, a lively bass and a haunting piano, the band are also commended for their original mash-ups of songs from mainstream artists such as Tinie Tempah and Bruno Mars. While they insist they won’t be performing any of these songs at the Mitchelstown venue, they haven’t left them behind for good. “We’re working on a new one at the moment actually”, smiles Pa “We won’t be doing any of them tonight though”

With fellow Irish bands Kodaline, The Coronas and The Script firmly flying the Irish flag abroad with their music, Walking on Cars don’t have far to look for inspiration. The two bandmates are certainly aware of this fact and would be happy to emulate even a fraction of these band’s achievements. “I’m a big fan of The Script actually and have been listening to their new song Superhereos”, says Pa “Their success is definitely something to admire”

Having spent a fun-filled fifteen minutes with the lads I decide to ask them my final question, before I leave them to prepare for their upcoming gig. While my cousin wanted desperately to know whether any of them were single, I decide to ask them the second best question instead. So where exactly did the name Walking on Cars actually originate from, a drunken night in Dingle perhaps…? Both lads once again spill into a surge of Kerry laughter.

“That was probably it to be honest”, says Pa “But no, it was our friend who thought of it. We were looking for a name for over six months and it was just those three words and we went for it”

Satisfied with their answer, I thank the two bandmates for their time and allow them to relax before they take on the roaring crowds at Indiependence in just over two hours’ time.

Later on as a member of that roaring crowd, it’s easy to see that the five-piece were born for this. The music revellers are in love with the band, while the band are equally besotted with their fans. Entranced by their show, I can’t help thinking that the name Walking on Stars is more fitting for the dizzy heights that the band will undoubtedly reach in the coming years.