TV host Dáithí Ó Sé is a changed man. When I met him in 2010, he was a cowboy boot-wearing bachelor. He was fresh off filming TG4’s Dáithí ar Route 1 and about to embark on a second series of The All-Ireland Talent Show; and a new gig as MC of The Rose of Tralee.
Fast-forward to 2012 and the Dingle native is married and the co-host of RTE’s Today, a new day-time programme broadcasting from Cork from November.
“Life has been very good,” Ó Sé says. The panel-style format will see Ó Sé and former Afternoon Show anchor Maura Derrane hosting Monday to Thursday slots, with Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh and Dragon’s Den star Norah Casey taking the sofa every Friday.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Ó Sé says. “We’re using the regional studios all over Ireland, along with Skype, so it’s very much a national show, even though it’s through the eyes of Cork.”
The show has generated its own buzz, with comparisons to ITV’s Loose Women doing the rounds.
No buzz, however, has quite matched up to that of Ó Sé’s summer nuptials to former New Jersey Rose of Tralee contestant, Rita Talty.
“I was on a stag party for about 15 years,” he says jokingly of life before marriage.
Now living in Galway with his wife, who also handles Ó Sé’s PR, just how will the Gaelgoir tackle the six-hour daily commute?
“I’ve been between Galway and Dublin now for the past two years, so travelling is nothing new to me,” he says.
“It wouldn’t be feasible to go to Cork for four days a week for five months, so I’ll probably travel up on Monday and Tuesday and stay down on a Wednesday. Hopefully, Rita will be able to come with me on the Wednesday night, if she’s off.”
Having gotten his first job in Cork back in 1999, as a Gaelscoil teacher, Ó Sé is no stranger to the city.
With that said, he has been taken under the wing of a fellow RTÉ presenter to ensure he’s up to speed on Cork 2.0.
“I was down with John Creedon a few weeks ago, so he gave me a good tour of how things have changed since I was there last.
“Most of the spots I’d have remembered would have been college spots, like The Thirsty Scholar, The Western Star and places like that.
“There was a good Club na Gaeilge that was always very active. I also remember a place called Mok’s; it’s where a lot of the footballers went. A good friend of mine, Tomás Ó Sé, who plays for Kerry, lives down there as well, so I was talking to him during the week and he’s kind of threatening to bring me out on the town,” Ó Sé says, conceding that, perhaps, he should stay down in Cork on a Thursday in lieu of a Wednesday night. It’s this easy-going demeanour that has made Ó Sé a firm favourite with the public — with the 2012 Rose of Tralee live final netting almost 900,000 viewers. “It’s a really nice show to present,” he says, “and gives you that scope to have a bit of fun on stage. This year, I came out in a pair of high heels in which I almost broke my ankles rehearsing. You can do that with the Rose of Tralee and have the craic and get involved with the party pieces, if you want.” So, will viewers experience the same devil-may-care charm with Today? “I could be caught in a pair of Maura’s high heels. How bad would that be?” he says.
At this point, I had to draw attention to his topsider-clad feet — a far cry from his signature, steer-driving footwear.
“I used to wear a lot of cowboy boots until Rita started hiding them on me,” he says, admitting that she is gradually changing his rebellious wardrobe habits. Sartorial quirks aside, this fella is no schlep when it comes to labels. My 2010 encounter with Ó Sé involved a jovial battle of wills, as I tried convincing him to wear a Paul Smith jacket in lieu of a Zegna suit.
“I nearly bought that jacket afterwards in the sales,” he says, while also letting me in on his soft spot for Armani and Hugo Boss suits, Duchamp shirts and True Religion jeans.
Given his packed schedule, time out for the busy 36-year-old must be a rarefied concept. Despite this, he seems to have made time for an uncharacteristic hobby — golf.
“I played my first game last year, out in America. Then, during the summer, I bought a pair of very cheap clubs. They were so cheap that the chocolate in my bag was worth more than the golf clubs,” he says.
In typical, down-to-earth style, Ó Sé is more about the fun than the competition on the fairway. “I really enjoy the exercise and the craic, but I go with people who don’t care and that’s what really makes it,” Ó Sé says.
Ó Sé is also an American citizen, and has been spending a lot of time in New Jersey with his in-laws and admits to being open to moving back should Rita ever wish to relocate.
Having visited 39 of the 50 states on his travels, for shows such as Dáithí ar Route 66 and Route 1, his love of the real America is undeniable.
“I remember landing at a place called Baxter Springs, Kansas,” he says. “It was about the size of Ballyferriter, in Dingle, and they’re the nicest people going; they’re really just like Ireland was in the ’70s and ’80s.”
It’s this cross-cultural experience that has prompted an interest in studying for an MA in history, with a view to making a documentary about Irish-America.
“I’d have gone to Chicago in ’94 with my brother, Danny, and now, almost 20 years later, even the difference from the social media side of it is huge,” Ó Sé says.
Regaling me with stories of lining 50-pence pieces on the public phone back in ’86 to call his sister, Marianne, in America, Ó Sé then reaches for his Blackberry and smiles, recalling Facebook courting with life love, Rita.
A changed man? Well, nearly.
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Shot on location @ Kelly’s Hotel, Dublin (www.kellysdublin.com; 01-6480010) Stylist: Annmarie O’Connor (www.annmarieoconnor.me; 087-9764920) Photography: Miki Barlok (www.barlokphoto.com; 086-2237081) Grooming: Andy Maloney and Dearbhla Keenan @ Brown Sugar (www.brownsugar.ie; 01 6169967) Team Assistant: Caoimhe McDonnell