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Culture That Made Me: Donncha O’Callaghan on classic telly and My Therapist Ghosted Me

The retired rugby union player tells Richard Fitzpatrick about his cultural touchstones which include ET, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and The Wire
Culture That Made Me: Donncha O’Callaghan on classic telly and My Therapist Ghosted Me

Donncha O’Callaghan - Ireland's Fittest Family coach discusses his cultural highlights

Donncha O’Callaghan, 43, grew up in Bishopstown, Cork. During an enviable rugby career, he spent 17 seasons playing with Munster. In 2009, he was part of the Ireland rugby team that won the Grand Slam. He also played tests on two British and Irish Lions tours. He co-presents 2FM’s breakfast radio show. He is a coach on Ireland’s Fittest Family, RTÉ One, 6.30pm, Sunday nights.

The A-Team
The A-Team

The A-Team

I get a tingle in my belly when I hear the music from The A-Team. As kids growing up, we shouted for who we wanted to be. There was always a fight for who’d be B.A. Baracus. My older brothers wanted to be Hannibal because he was the leader and he smoked a cigar. He was cool. But I loved 'Howling Mad' Murdoch. He was a bit eccentric, a bit out there. I loved what he was about. There was a bit of mischief about Murdoch.

The West Wing 

I loved The West Wing. It became my friend. I had to check in on Toby and see how were we all getting on. It was so smart. You might wonder how close to reality it was, but with West Wing, I didn't even care because it was better than reality for me: “There’s my president. G’wan, you good thing!” There’s a scene, for example, where the president makes a speech in the rain. A Dire Straits song plays in the background. It’s a classic TV moment. It’s the beauty of good art: it stirs emotion. Can’t recommend The West Wing enough.

Dominic West as Officer James "Jimmy" McNulty, Benjamin Busch as Off. Anthony Colicchioa and Johnnie Louis Brown as Officer Eddie Walker in The Wire
Dominic West as Officer James "Jimmy" McNulty, Benjamin Busch as Off. Anthony Colicchioa and Johnnie Louis Brown as Officer Eddie Walker in The Wire

The Wire 

With The Wire, it took me a few takes to get up to speed. All my Munster teammates were talking about it at the time it came out. I remember Jerry Flannery lent me the DVD for Season One. I gave it back to him after watching the first two episodes because I couldn’t understand it. He said: “Listen to me, Donncha. I promise you. Stick with it. It’s incredible.” 

So I took it back and I put on the subtitles. We’d meet then on the team bus and I’d get my teammates to go through the language. I'd be there, “In The Wire what are they on about with ‘red tops’ and ‘50’?” I’d be told: '50 is the guards', 'red tops are drugs'. They had it all down. It’s a brilliant series.

Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm

My favourite sitcom is Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. I love the cringy humour, the awkward moments in it. Jenny, my wife, slags me over it: “If you had a superpower Dunners it would be the ability to live in an awkward moment.”

I’m attracted to Larry David’s type of humour — everyone else is dying, everyone else is so embarrassed that they don’t want to be in the moment, but you're grand. I enjoy that carnage.

A scene from the film E.T.
A scene from the film E.T.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 

At the moment, we're massively into family movies. We recently watched E.T. It hasn’t dated. My kids thought it was brilliant. You can get over the special effects not being of the standard they are nowadays because it's so warm and the story is so good. It’s about love — someone who is there for someone else, who wants to do the right thing.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley
The Wind That Shakes The Barley

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

There were films you would always watch to get up for a rugby match. On the team bus, you could never go wrong with The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Gladiator, Braveheart. The Wind that Shakes the Barley stirs up so much emotion. If you want a 90-minute history lesson, I don’t think you can go far wrong with that film, especially if you’re about to play against English opposition. I'd be ready to go after watching that. In fact, I’d probably have to taper myself down and watch it on Thursday because I could fly through a wall if I watched it on a Friday before the match on Saturday.

BBC commentator Bill McLaren at his commentary position at Murrayfield before the Scotland v England rugby match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday February 2 2002.
BBC commentator Bill McLaren at his commentary position at Murrayfield before the Scotland v England rugby match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday February 2 2002.

Bill McLaren

In 2000, Munster were in the European Cup final against Northampton. Bill McLaren, one of rugby’s most famous voices, was commentating. He arrived for the captain’s run on Friday. He’d ask guys: “Are they the boots you're going to wear tomorrow?” He asked Anthony Foley: “You normally wear a scrum cap. What colour is it going to be?” He was doing his homework. I now know why people are at the top of their game in different industries. It’s simple: they work the hardest.

I remember Keith Wood introduced him and he said: “Oh, Donncha O’Callaghan — I have a bit of trouble with that name. Can you help me pronounce it correctly?” I used play computer games and he was the voice on it. Here he is asking me how to pronounce my name correctly. I was nearly on the floor.

Ed Sheeran on stage at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture; Eddie O'Hare
Ed Sheeran on stage at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

Ed Sheeran 

We went down this summer to Páirc Uí Chaoimh — me, my wife and the four kids — to see Ed Sheeran. It was magic. I know his popular songs, but they knew songs I mightn’t have known. They were so excited by it. Just seeing them having those types of experiences, forging the bonds. There have been other great concerts I’ve gone to, but getting to enjoy one as a dad is different. You sit back and look at how much they’re loving it. I got such a kick out of it.

Joanne McNally and Vogue Williams 
Joanne McNally and Vogue Williams 

My Therapist Ghosted Me 

I love listening to My Therapist Ghosted Me with Joanne McNally and Vogue Williams. It's brilliant. It gives me an unbelievable laugh every time. I'm good on lads’ craic, but girls’ craic is way better — listening to them, they’re having the craic way better than anything I’ve been involved in rugby dressing rooms. I know Joanne is gonna be funny, but the one that makes me laugh out loud is when Vogue pops in. She’s hilarious. That type of friendship they have — they can be so honest with each other. It's probably an Irish trait that you can keep someone in line by clipping their wings, by slagging them off in a funny way.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse 

A book that stands out for me is Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. We read it before bedtime. I always make sure that the copy is around me. I love giving it as a present. I encourage my kids all the time: if you’re losing your way a bit or you've a little bit of doubt, pick it up. It’s a 20-minute read. Sometimes I listen to it on audiobook if I’m going for a walk. It's a brilliant piece of art. It stirs up emotion but it does it in a kind way. The messaging in it is incredible.

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