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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Claire Byrne: 'At TV3 I went through a marriage breakup in the glare of the public eye and I thought radio would bring some welcome anonymity... Little did I know I was about to embark on the steepest learning curve of my career...'

LEAVING NEWSTALK: On her last day behind the mic, Claire Byrne looks back

My alarm clock goes off at four set times. Perfect Getting Up Time (4.30am), Still Enough Time (4.40am), Pushing It (4.50am) and Late (5am). Today I switched all four off for the last time.

I have been presenting Newstalk Breakfast for almost four years and today I have hosted my last show.

Punishing

Getting up very early, year after year is a punishing schedule -- ask the milkman, delivery driver or taxi driver -- and knowing that the regime is over, especially as autumn and winter approach, brings with it a huge sense of relief, but parting company with friends, colleagues and listeners is a sweet sorrow.

I joined the station just as it began broadcasting nationally in 2006. It was an exciting time, both personally and for Newstalk.

I had worked with TV3 for about five years at that stage and it was a high-profile job.

I had gone through a marriage break up in the glare of the public eye and felt that radio would provide some welcome anonymity but yet present a huge challenge in the form of a fast-paced current affairs breakfast programme.

Little did I know that I was about to embark on the steepest learning curve of my career to date.

We were a new national station, battling against the RTE machine and all of the local stations, some of whom had massively loyal audiences. We set out to be a fresh and independent voice, making news and information entertaining from 6.30am.

It was hard work and not just for presenters. I've been lucky to have been surrounded by young, keen, intelligent producers and researchers at Newstalk -- some of whom are still there, others who have moved on and many of whom I expect I will meet again.

After 15 years in any business, you realise that the bright young thing that you first met while they were on their work experience placement might one day be your boss.

Precious

When we first started on Newstalk Breakfast, my co-host was Ger Gilroy, who is now the station's sports editor. We developed a wine sommelier's nose for coffee and arrived into work with rare blends which we locked away for ourselves like precious jewels.

Occasionally, while the eight o'clock news was on, I'd run to the vending machine and procure Cadbury's Fruit & Nut for us to gobble down before the weather forecast signalled a return to broadcast duties. Ger and I would regularly break into convulsions at the most inopportune moments and I still can't figure out why I was always the one he ordered out of studio to regain composure while he carried on.

Ivan Yates took over last year and, while initially we viewed each other warily over the microphone, we soon developed a rapport. He will carry the Newstalk Breakfast torch when I am gone on Monday and I will have a twinge of sadness when I hear him ripping in to some poor unfortunate, knowing that I am not there to catch the cheeky wink that says he is only riling them for sport.

For me, the next chapter begins in RTE and I am truly excited at the prospect of the challenge that lies ahead.

I have a new co-host in Daithi O Se, fresh from his triumph at the Rose Of Tralee. So far we have discovered we both love Monster Munch crisps -- none of your fancy pickled onion though -- the original or nothing. I anticipate great fun on The Daily Show when we get up and running on September 20.

Today, though, it's all about saying goodbye to all the people I worked with at Newstalk for a great four years. I'll miss them.

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