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Friday 15 December 2017

Sinead Ryan: Chummy, blokey and a bit charismatic ... why women are happy Ray's back on air

Ray D'Arcy and Jenny Kelly
Ray D'Arcy and Jenny Kelly
Ray D'Arcy at RTE yesterday

The radio musical chairs of Ray D'Arcy's move back to RTE was almost universally considered a good thing for both RTE and Ray himself.

All the more so with the transfer of wife/producer/sometime co-presenter Jenny Kelly and producer Will Hanafin. Why fix something when it ain't broke and all that?

The move will also serve to shore up Ryan Tubridy's listeners (why again?) and prevent them 'moving the dial'. Or that's the plan.

Ironically D'Arcy, whose life is a fairly open book given its key events have been played out in public over the airwaves, is himself loathe to give interviews.

We've discovered whatever pieces of the man he's wished to share with us by listening each day, and they are myriad.

Ray provided, for the last few years, and certainly since Gerry Ryan's death, the foil to the Hobson's choice of po-faced morning current affairs or endless pop.

It's the 'bloke next door' appeal, not unlike Ian Dempsey's, that sets him apart, and allows him to cover light and dark, fun and serious with a slightly self-deprecating humour that I reckon must hide a serious and studied ego - it wouldn't work otherwise.

That's not to say it's false in any way. I think what you hear is what you get with Ray, but then he'd be careful about what you do hear.

Women like him lots. Jenny more than any other of course, since she married him and had two kids.

Women like the chumminess, blokeyness and seeing him occasionally getting pulled-up by his other half. They like the undoubted charisma and enjoy the gentle banter - Ray's the urban thinking woman's Dathi O Se, but so much more.

TERRIBLE

He's also safe. That doesn't mean safe radio, which would be terrible, but a safe pair of hands with say, a sensitive topic.

He doesn't suffer fools which can sometimes make him the story though - a trait most presenters try to shy away from.

He infamously hung up during an interview with Danny Healy-Rae over an (admittedly stupid) proposal on legalising rural drink-driving.

He'll happily have a poke at the Church (an avowed atheist, as often as possible, it seems) over everything from child abuse scandals to abortion issues.

But he'll also talk to small children and older adults with the same ease and without patronising them. That's very difficult to pull off.

Of course women also like the Ray-Jenny double act. They enjoy Ray's wife being there like the Richard and Judy of the airwaves and when it works, it works.

When it's terrible and cringey and falls apart, it also works.

When D'Arcy went up directly against Gerry Ryan on Today FM he was probably a bit anxious himself, but gave it welly. Ryan was the undoubted master at all that "I've no idea what's really going on here" radio. He needed minding.

eejity

Being the competition to a massively popular, once-in-a-generation broadcasting talent was not for the faint-hearted. Ray just got on with it. If Gerry became rambling, navel-gazing or was simply bad tempered, as could be his wont, you could switch to an effervescent Ray for a bit.

But he doesn't mind being a bit eejity either. He'll shave the head for charity; run silly quizzes and take the mickey out of daft guests without them realising it. He even hosted the Rose of Tralee for years.

So, after all the hype the first show started out refreshingly un-tweaked yesterday: the demise of the one cent coins; an interview with Gaybo (with a customary pop at religion), and then popular Paul Howard - all super reliable with none of Mooney's crankiness or Duffy's outrage.

He messed about with the cues, forgot which buttons to press and if you went to the loo, you missed nothing. He even got a "Welcome back, honey" from Eileen Dunne on the 4pm heads. It was...comforting.

Tubs' audience may be safer, but his crown mightn't be.

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