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Eamon dunphy interview - this is top class

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He's a legendary Irish TV commentator, once called Mick McCarthy "a boil on the arse of humanity", and was the ghost-writer that landed Roy Keane in trouble by "paraphrasing" the midfielder's account of his tackle on Alfe Inge Haaland. Ladies and gentleman, meet Eamon Dunphy.


Paul Doyle

Friday November 12, 2004



Eamon Dunphy: A lovely bloke, would you believe


Hello? Hello Small Talk, it's Eamon Dunphy. Let's do this thing.


[small Talk, having put out feelers to an acquaintance of Dunphy's just two minutes earlier, is - to say the least - even more shambolically unprepared than usual]. You're a big name on RTE's football coverage in Ireland, Eamon. Apart from yourself and your colleagues like John Giles and Liam Brady, are there any other pundits you like?

[Pause while he racks his brain] Alan Hansen? Yeah, Alan Hansen's all right. And Mark Lawrenson too, he's excellent.


Are there any that particularly get on your goat?

Yeah, all the others [laughs]. Peter Schmeichel is a pain in the arse. As are most of the ITV people. Andy Townsend's OK and Venables, to be fair, knows his stuff. But Ally McCoist and the rest of them are just useless. Terribly limp. And then there's Sky. They're coverage is great, but apart from Andy Gray, the people they get in to offer so-called-analysis are useless - they must think their viewers are total vegetables.

Don't hold back, eh, Eamon. Anyway, you've just started your own radio show which starts at 7am. Are you finding it hard to get up so early? Or is it just a case of going straight to work from the night before?

[Giggles, then suddenly deadly serious] No, it's no problem getting up in the morning. The show is hard work, of course, because we start before sunrise and then are working behind the scenes until 9.30 in the evening [embarks on long soliloquy on travails of setting up a new show with limited resources, though does offer profuse praise for his "small but exceptionally talented" team]. All in all, it doesn't leave much time for [chuckles mysteriously] recreation ...


So you make up for that at the weekend, right?

[Emits that chuckle again] Well, I've experimented. I've tried to test the theory that you can work hard all week then go mad at the weekend, but it's really not that easy. You know, as the editor of the show I do a double-shift every day and I'm back in on Sunday afternoon preparing for Monday morning. At major broadcasters like RTE and BBC, they have two of everything and everyone, but here we're a small operation so we have to work flat out.


You're a big fan of Roy Keane, famously penning his autobiography and saying that he's "a beautiful man". What current player would you say is most similar to the way you were as a player?

Hmmm [pensive pause, possibly irritated at Small Talk implicitly ruling out any comparison with Keane]. Well, I was what used to be referred to as a midfield general...


Really? Small Talk was under the impression you were the proverbial will o' the wisp wide-man?

[Emphatically] No, no, I was a midfield general. I just wasn't very strong. But I was skilful. I didn't have the strength and athletic prowess you need to go to the top, but I was decent enough.


So what was the highlight of your playing career?

[Loud guffaw] Highlight! Ha ha ha ha ...


Come on, don't be modest ...

Well, I won promotion three times, with Charlton, Reading and Millwall, so that wasn't bad for a journeyman. I was also capped for Ireland 23 times. But in general, I'd say my playing career was great training for life in the real world. It taught me the value of grafting hard and not being disappointed when things don't go your way. Yes, you could say my playing career was one long character-building exercise [laughs].


And what has been the highlight of your post-playing career?

Hmm, well I've written four books, all of which have been successful in their own right. One was on my life as a player, one on U2, one was a biography of Matt Busby, of which I'm very proud, and more recently there was the Roy Keane book. I've also had good times in broadcasting. Overall though, I'd say my biggest achievement has been [tone perks up as he builds to explosive laughter] to survive!


You're reputed to be fond of a sing-song on a night out - what's your favourite karaoke routine?

[Mock-angrily] Hey! I'm a very good singer and I know all the words to songs I sing so I don't need any of that karaoke nonsense!


One thousand apologies. So with what do you regale your audiences?

[Pensive pause]. Probably Stardust.


As in 70s spandex star, Alvin?

No, no, no! [then gently, nay, lovingly] It was written by Hoagy Carmichael and then performed by various artists throughout the 1940s and 50s. It's an American classic!


Any chance of a quick rendition?

Absolutely not, this is neither the time nor the place.


What or who would you put in Room 101?

[Lots of humming and hawing] You know, I tend to be an enthusiast rather than a hater. But I would say New Labour, with Tony Blair going in head first. He's just a three-dollar bill.


Moving on to matters more pleasant, what's your poison?

Hmm, I'll say a good wine. I don't really drink spirits ...


Is that true?

Well, when I'm in France I might take some Calvados. Now that's a good drink ....[chuckles] but a very serious one; you don't want to go messing with that if you've to be up early the next morning!


What's the last CD you bought?

[Laughs] In Ireland you don't have to buy CDs anymore, newspapers are giving them out for free! I don't know if that particular craze exists in England, but over here it's madness on a Sunday!


So you just take what you get then?

Ah no, I do shell out now and again. Let me think, the last CD I bought was that new Woody Guthrie collection. Before that it was probably something by Bob Dylan.


What your favourite TV show?

Channel 4 news. They've been consistently good for many years now. Particularly over things such as Iraq. They've taken some very brave editorial decisions.


Tell us a joke

[Conspiratorial laughter]


One we can publish ...

Oh right. To be honest, I'm not really a jokemaster. But I'm a great laugher. Because after all, life itself is funny, a big joke. So I get my kicks just from observing what goes on around us every day.


Finally then, what have you got in your pocket at the moment?

[Without a nanosecond of thought] Tissues. About 50 euros. And [giddily] some dodgy phone numbers!


Good luck Eamon!

Thank you Small Talk, and good night.

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