Newstalk has been rocked by the departure of the award-winning team behind the acclaimed Off the Ball sports show in a row over the programme’s start time.
Presenters Eoin McDevitt, Ken Early, Ciarán Murphy, Simon Hick, and Mark Horgan resigned after a request to go to air an hour earlier, at 6pm, was rejected by management who felt it would not make commercial sense to cut into George Hook’s Drivetime show.
Newstalk sports editor Ger Gilroy, who created Off the Ball in 2002, returned to the helm last night along with Cian Murtagh, David McIntyre, and Joe Molloy, all of whom predominantly feature on the station’s weekend sports broadcasts.
Off the Ball has become a ratings winner over the last decade, garnering numerous PPI Radio Awards and a loyal group of fans between 7pm and 10pm on weeknights.
When Gilroy left in 2005 to host Newstalk’s Breakfast show, McDevitt stepped up to the microphone and developed an instant rapport with listeners.
Off-air, the group had also developed a massive following on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
In a statement yesterday, Newstalk thanked the team members “for their contributions to the station” and wished “them luck in their future endeavours”.
Pictures of the presenters was removed from the Newstalk website within an hour of the news breaking yesterday.
Last night, Gilroy began the programme by saying: “First things first. We didn’t really expect to be here tonight, but we are. That’s because the lads have made a pitch to start the show every night at six o’clock.
“Station management couldn’t accommodate that and the lads have decided to resign. All that I want to say about this now is that we’re going to miss our friends.
“Ken, Eoin, Mark, Simon, and Murph are an amazing group of people to work with. They’ve helped change how sport is talked about in Ireland forever. They make great radio and they helped make radio great.”
Ironically RTÉ launched a new radio sports show Game On last month in a bid to cut into the Off the Ball listenership with 2FM chief John McMahon admitting “sport is hugely important to so many Irish people, none more-so than 2FM’s core 20-44 year old age group”.
Bookmaking firm Paddy Power last night released odds on where the Off the Ball team will next be heard, with RTÉ Radio the 6/4 favourite.
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