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Did they strike a blow for the lads or just take their eyes Off The Ball?

HAS anyone listened to that sports show that was on Newstalk? Five fellas sitting around the studio giving analysis about sporting events and people.

Nope? Me neither. Well, actually, I think I did, but it just sounded like a few lads sitting around a table in a pub talking sport.

The Off The Ball radio show – fronted by Eoin McDevitt (right) – had 39,000 listeners, only 6,000 of them female. That was until they walked out of Newstalk last week because they wanted to move their slot an hour earlier, to start at 6pm instead of 7pm.

I could listen to and watch sports all day, but this programme never rocked my boat. And I like sports – football, cricket, darts, athletics, GAA, the works. But the style of the show obviously worked for guys more than girls.

In fairness, those who listened, adored this show – it was, by all accounts, witty, sharp and could hold the audience gripped for its three-hour length. But 39,000 listeners? I'd say the Angelus gets more than that.

So for these lads to have the audacity to walk away from their employer, Newstalk, and expect another radio station to take them, well, it's impressive and stupid at the same time.

Eamon Dunphy skipped out of Today FM some years back. He went on to do stints elsewhere, but was never as good as he was on the original Last Word. Lorraine Keane left TV3 and drove off into the world of possibilities – and has never enjoyed the same profile since.

For the Off The Ball guys to quit a job so publically, and citing differences with those in charge – well, that's just media suicide. What radio station would take on such rebels – especially when the listener figures would not be worth the trouble?

People are entitled to leave their jobs. I don't buy into the idea that 'they are lucky to have a job' and so should stay with it. And if these guys were as frustrated as they said they were, possibly they had no option.

But where to now for the famous five? RTE have their own sports broadcasters; Today FM would have no room in their schedule.

Its been seven days and 15 hours, approximately, since they took their show away. Although nothing compares to them, it will probably be the last we hear of them as this group.


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