Battle for listeners begins as Prendeville back on air

The build-up started with Cork’s 96FM’s ‘below the belt’ promotion directing a thinly veiled personal swipe at their former prizefighter.

Battle for listeners begins as Prendeville back on air

The RedFM corner hit back with a gritty ‘Love/Hate’ inspired poster campaign, with the man they poached, Neil Prendeville, striking a Nidge-like pose alongside their other big signing, KC, the former TodayFM DJ, who is the station’s new breakfast show presenter and programme controller.

Like Nidge, Prendeville’s been in a fair few scrapes. Caught on the ropes before, he’s taken the punches — and survived.

After much talk about the much anticipated talk-off, the two heavyweights of Cork radio started sparring just after 9am.

Prendeville, the former presenter of Ireland’s most-listened-to local radio talk show, said he was delighted to be back on air after a five-week absence, presenting his first show on the re-branded RedFM as his fight to retain his 116,000 listeners kicked off.

He danced around, trying to find his range. His replacement at 96FM, PJ Coogan, got stuck in from the bell.

Prendeville admitted to nerves in the opening minutes of the ‘Neil Prendeville Show’, as he hailed the start of spring, the longer evenings, the approaching summer and our emergence from the economic recession.

“The anxious times are over with the good times ahead,” he said.

He spent the first hour recounting the anxious times since he announced his departure from 96FM, and thanking listeners who moved the dial to join him.

Meanwhile, Coogan and his new ‘Opinion Line’ production team of former ‘Cork Independent’ editor Deirdre O’Shaughnessy, Brenda Dennehy and Fergal Barry, had landed several punches, tackling the contentious proposal for the sale of public land in Togher, before Prendeville took his first ad break.

But as Prendeville fielded calls and texts from well-wishers — one woman said her kitchen was back to normal now that he was back on the air — he went on to land a few hits thanks to interviews with Ian Bailey’s solicitor, Frank Buttimer, on the garda taping scandal (covered by Coogan on Thursday), and interviews with Premier League star Stephen Ireland’s fiancee, Jessica Lawlor, and comedian Des Bishop, in the second hour.

Lawlor spoke about her life as a Wag, and keeping things as normal as possible for their three children, and told Prendeville about their Prestbury home’s pool and gym, and her frugal shopping habits.

She said the couple has moved on from the 2007 ‘grannygate’ incident — when she suffered a miscarriage and Ireland claimed his maternal grandmother had died so he could pull out of the Irish national squad for a European qualifier against the Czech Republic to be with her.

“It feels like a lifetime ago. “So much has happened since,” Lawlor said. “We were young naive and you make mistakes. We didn’t handle it the right way and we regret that. But everybody makes mistakes and you move on.”

At the same time, Coogan was dealing with a flood of callers complaining about empty vacant council homes all over Cork City, followed in his third hour with an item on Mother’s Day and infertility with blogger June Shannon.

Prendeville was still fielding texts offering good wishes, before he spoke to English Market fishmonger Pat O’Connell about his trip to Buckingham Palace last week.

Prendeville said it would take some time for him and his team, Emer O’Hea-Martin and Colm Moore, to ease in but they promised some surprises over the coming days.

Cork publican Con Dennehy was one of several people who said he has moved the dial to RedFM.

“It was Cork’s loss when you were not on the air,” he told Prendeville.

RedFM boss Diarmuid O’Leary said it was a very exciting time for the station.

“We have recognised the serious talent that both KC and Neil Prendeville are and we’re delighted to be able to offer them both a fresh challenge in their radio careers,” he said.

Both camps will be watching anxiously to see where the advertising goes, and for the next JNLR figures, due in May.

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