It started out innocently enough. A few weeks ago Nemeton, they of TG4’s acclaimed GAA coverage, rang from An Rinn and asked me to be a talking head on their upcoming series of Laochra Gael, specifically the Henry Shefflin and Lar Corbett episodes.
Being the possessor of a face ideal for radio and a voice perfect for newsprint, the invitation came as a surprise.
The Perrier went straight to my head. Flushed with self-satisfaction I not only said yes, I told them I’d do it as Gaeilge
This was brave and foolhardy in the extreme. Granted, I got a B in Irish in the Leaving Cert, but that was in the depths of the last century and was attributable largely to the efforts of Micheál Ó Diarmada, my múinteoir.
The only element of the course itself I can remember is ‘Toraiocht Diarmuid agus Grainne’. The only part of thatI can remember is the elegant euphemism, “Rinne sé bean di.”
Since then my exposure to our native tongue has largely been via Nemeton themselves and their exemplary coverage of hurling and football on TG4. Imithe ar foiríl. Pointe den scoth. Carta buí do Connolly.
That sort of thing.
Still, I was not to be deterred. I wrote out what I wanted to say about Shefflin and Corbett, translated it and practised it over and over again.
I examined my wardrobe for something suitable — no black or white or stripes allowed, I was informed — and settled on a nice salmon-pink number (Ralph Lauren, if you must know). Then, last Wednesday, the great day dawned and it was down to An Rinn.
The Nemeton operation is bigger than it looks from the road. Out the back are portable buildings and vans and large satellite dishes. And there’s a kitchen, where they give us tea, and there are folk coming and going. Nemeton employ about 50 full-timers locally, quite a deal in a place like Ring.
Among them is Donie Mac Murchú, ace TV cameraman and Waterford hurling backroom guy. As the poor man is doubtless fed to the teeth of being importuned by people soliciting or offering opinions regarding the Déise’s no-show against Cork, I decide to be subtle.
Unfortunately my attempt comes out as, “What in the name of God happened in Thurles?”
Donie gives a tight smile and kindly refrains from punching me. It soon gets worse for him. Donal O’Grady materialises after finishing his stint on camera and is even less subtle about Waterford than I was.
Soon it’s time for my close-up. Sarah powders my face and I’m handed a waiver form to sign. This is a novel experience and it is only after I sign that the thought occurs: why didn’t you read it first? What a schoolboy error! You’re always supposed to read the tees and cees and fine print!
Disturbing thoughts come tumbling in on top of one another. Have I signed my image rights away in perpetuity?
Did the form indemnify me against defamation or if I say something libellous will it be me rather than Nemeton who’s for the high jump? Is it possible that I’ve actually signed up for a cramming course in Irish with An tUasal O’Grady, a man we can safely assume doesn’t put up with any messing in class?
Next minute I’m in the hot seat, Mac Dara Mac Donnchu is putting me at my ease and we’re off.
Did I make an eejit of myself? Did the hours practising my Irish pay off or did I revert to English under the pressure of the situation? Does salmon pink really suit me? Or will mine be the face on the cutting room floor?
All will be revealed when the new series of Laochra Gael — five hour-long features on the two aforementioned hurlers plus Graham Geraghty, Mickey Harte, and Ashling Thompson — is televised on TG4 next spring. Me, I’ll be watching the Shefflin and Corbett episodes from behind the sofa.