Soccer pundit John Giles was available to cover Ireland's crucial European qualifier against Scotland this weekend and would have done it for free because he thinks the game is so important, the Herald can reveal.
The news comes as RTE faces criticism for not allowing the expert to take his place on the RTE panel with Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady on Saturday because of what the broadcaster called "scheduling" reasons.
The station denies Giles has been axed from the panel.
Sources say RTE are foolish not to have the ex-Man United and Leeds player on the panel and say the reason behind the decision was a contractual one.
"John was contracted to cover a certain number of games and had completed them, so RTE wouldn't allow him to cover the Scotland game," a source explained.
"But despite rumours that he wasn't available, John certainly was in a position to cover the game.
"In fact he is so passionate about it that he would have done it for free because he thinks it is one of the most important games we will ever play."
Former Millwall and Ireland player Richie Sadlier will instead fill the slot.
While nobody is doubting his professionalism and ability, sources say the public have already been left saddened by the death of anchor Bill O'Herlihy and want to see the regular presenting team on their screens for such a big game.
An RTE spokesperson said the panel is interchangeable, with a decision made on a "case-by-case" basis. "John Giles has not been dropped from the RTE panel," a Montrose spokesperson insisted. "It's quite normal that the composition of the panel changes for scheduling and availability reasons."
With Ireland's next game three months away, the broadcaster says a decision on the composition of the next panel won't be made until two weeks before the qualifier against Gibraltar on September 4.