Paudie Palmer: ‘I’m more or less a Cork person now. I can admit it fully’

He’ll stay strictly professional, save maybe the odd colourful remark, but at least one Kerry voice in Killarney tomorrow will be shouting for Cork. And it’s a very familiar voice to Cork radio listeners. C103 match commentator and raconteur Paudie Palmer.

Paudie Palmer: ‘I’m more or less a Cork person now. I can admit it fully’

Q. How did you get into commentary?

A. Like a lot of commentators of my vintage, I got into it by accident.

Years ago, a teacher in St Brogan’s bought a video camera to tape games, and I stood beside him doing some commentary. We showed it in school then afterwards and there was a bit of interest.

In 1990, local radio was coming on the scene and I was involved with teams in St Brogan’s, where I still teach.

Michael Corcoran (of C103) came to talk to us about some match and I asked if they ever did commentary on games. He said they didn’t have a commentator, so I said I’d chance it if he wanted.

Q. Do you remember your first official commentary?

A. It was in Ballinspittle, a senior hurling game between Carbery and Valley Rovers.

My co-commentators were Donal McCarthy, who was representing the Valley Rovers side of things, though he was more of a football man, and the late Kieran O’Driscoll, who was a great friend of mine.

I’d done two for the school, that’s all.

In the radio game, though, when the ball went wide I’d stop talking until play started again.

I got my only training that evening, when the late Con McCarthy back in the studio relayed the message, ‘tell that guy to keep talking when the ball goes wide’, only he didn’t say ‘guy’.

I don’t know if we had full permission to broadcast the games then, so it stopped for a while. When it resumed I kept with it, and now it’s a labour of love, really.

Q. Would it be fair to say you don’t take yourself too seriously?

A. It’s a hobby for me. I don’t see it as a job. I don’t take it that seriously in that I go to the games and commentate on what I see rather than doing reams and reams of preparation.

I depend on describing what happens. I’m conscious that people listening want to hear something colourful, so I’d add something in the odd time.

Once I said, ‘were it not for mistakes, half of us might not be on the planet’.

It was out of my mouth when I thought, ‘what kind of thing is that to say?’ but I think we’re entertaining people as well as simply passing on information.

Gaelic football and hurling are simple enough games, and I think one or two comments liven things up. One or two will do, though.

Q. The odd critic might complain you don’t give the score often enough?

A. Yes. And when you get associated with something, people believe it no matter what, though I’m convinced myself I give the score too often.

Q. Do you enjoy working with the co-commentators?

A. I’m relying on the co-commentators a lot. There’s John Fintan Daly, who brings his own personality to the proceedings, and Jim Nolan, in football and Tom Nott in hurling.

I rely on them to keep an eye on things.

When Kildorrery won the county championship a few years ago, that must have been very special.

I’d seen them losing a couple of finals and it was nearly the same as my own club winning, to see them win.

Doing county finals is special, it’s a real day for local radio — take last year in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when Ballincollig won their first senior football title. It’s their own people, all together on a day they’ll never forget. You have to remember that. A lot of the time you’re keeping an eye on the line and on the supporters as well.

Q. Do you think the Cork county teams have underachieved in your time?

A. I’d often wonder about how success is measured in Cork.

Because it’s a dual county, you’d wonder if Cork will win as many All-Irelands as it should. It’s the most successful county in Ireland in the way it promotes both codes, but that costs you at senior inter-county level.

And at other grades — Rochestown College contested the Harty and the Corn Uí Mhuirí but they were doing so with one hand tied behind their back because of that, I thought.

Because of all of that, I think different indicators for success should be used in Cork.

In Kerry, the county junior footballers are used as a development squad, almost, and league games were put off to facilitate them.

But in Cork, some of the junior footballers, like Mark Sugrue of Bandon, had to play intermediate hurling the previous weekend.

When I came to Cork, one of the first things I learned was about “the field”. Back in Kerry, it was always the football field. But in Cork, it wasn’t the football field. It was a GAA field, or a hurling field.

Q. Who was your own footballing hero?

A. I’m from Templenoe. Pat Spillane was our legend growing up. They’re doing well again now, they have a good group coming up.

Q. Have you been turned by the Rebels?

A. I’m more or less a Cork person now. I can admit it fully.

My mother passed away last April 12 months, and she was passionate about Kerry football. She might have suspected I wasn’t quite as loyal — I have three brothers who see nothing but Kerry, and that’s the way they are.

A lot of Kerry people come to Cork and get involved in clubs, they’re doing great work for Cork, but come the Munster final, they’re passionate Kerry people. I’m not one of those, though since my mother passed away I feel freer to say that I’d love to see Cork win matches, and to win tomorrow.

Q. How will your day pan out tomorrow?

A. We’ll go down early. It’s no hardship to go to Killarney. I’ll go down the town to savour the atmosphere before heading back up to the stadium for the commentary.

I’ll want Cork to win. These are the Cork people listening to us tomorrow, and I want Cork to win for them. Some might think that that’s not being very loyal to my native county, but Cork has been so good to me.

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