Dubliner blows final whistle on TV slot but will present major weekend sports shows on RTE radio

by PJ Cunningham
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Des Cahill

Dubliner Des Cahill has been the face of the GAA on RTE for the last 15 years, expertly anchoring the Sunday Game through some of the most heated moments on the station.

The disclosure that he is stepping down as The Sunday Game evening programme presenter after 15 years came as a thunderbolt to followers over the capital and the country, but it wasn’t exactly a shock for those who know him well.

The good news for his fans is that while giving himself a break from the late Sunday gig, he will be very much part  of  both Saturday and Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1. He had been co-presenting the Saturday show with Joanne Cantwell for the past number of years.

In a statement released this week, the 63-year-old Cuala man said: “The reason I want a change is very straightforward – I want to go to live games again! It’s been a privilege to host ‘The Sunday Game’ for the past 15 seasons, but I miss the sense of fun and anticipation as you make your way to a match, the feeling of tension and excitement, the roar of the crowd.

“ I can’t wait to experience that again when I’m fronting Saturday and Sunday Sport live from some of the most iconic venues in the country”, he explained.

Those of us who know Dessie appreciate that he is at heart a GAA fan who loves the hustle and bustle of live activity and after serving a life sentence confined to the studios, he is now happy to be out on his favoured patch – live matches at GAA grounds across the country.

Ever the pragmatist, the presenter also pointed out that now was a good time to leave the anchor role as top panellists such as Colm O’Rourke, Kevin McStay and Pat Spillane were also leaving– the former pair to take up roles as Meath and Mayo managers respectively.

Last year in an unusual move, Cahill told the Irish Independent that he was finding the whole Sunday Game concept frustrating and less enjoyable because the numbers of games had grown exponentially and there was less room to give games proper cover time.

He said all the crew felt the same way and while they were a talented bunch he was surrounded with, it was unfair to give a Wicklow or Carlow just three minutes coverage and leave it at that.

“Regularly now, we’re showing up to 15 games. How do you get 15 games into 106 or 108 minutes? You can’t. I used enjoy making The Sunday Game a hell of a lot more. You could have the craic, a bit of a laugh. We miss laughter on the programme, a little spontaneity. I miss it. Because the programme just doesn’t have room to breathe in my opinion. But there has to be structure and the more matches you squeeze in, the more structured it has to be.” 

Speaking on Claire Byrne’s RTE morning radio show this week, the Dubliner said he had been asked to give his opinion on who his replacement should be but had demurred. It is understood the national broadcaster has a number of internal people in mind but say it will make the announcement early next year.

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