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Des Scahill

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  • #20373
    • Total Posts 2789

    I don’t actually get particularly aerated about commentators but I don’t think Irish racing is doing itself any favours in holding on to this guy.

    “Horse A leading from Horse B, then comes Horse C. Down the far side, it’s Horse A from Horse B, then comes Horse C. Into the home straight it’s Horse A…” etc etc in a flat monotone.

    In years gone by BBC commentators were venerated for their ability when I always thought they were rubbish – David Coleman, Ron Pickering, Ted Lowe etc. They were all the “Voice of …(insert sport name here)” solely because they were the first to do it – at a time when competition was non-existent. I wonder if Scahill is getting the same breaks?

    Compare his output to someone like Richard Hoiles and he sounds tired, disinterested and going through the motions. There are many better commentators in Ireland. There’s probably many better commentators in Iceland in fact. Maybe even in a single branch. *

    Exit stage left I think.


    * Not exactly bleedin’ Stewart Lee am I?

    • Total Posts 17716

    I don’t think your being kind to Dessey. I used to get to Ireland more in the 19-seventys and he was always a gentleman and ready with a steady hand on the "Old Irish"! Luckily ni Irleand at least you don’t have to be good at the job to do it – some things are much more important, like courteousy and being freindly. Long may he flourish. There’s too much talking in race commenteries now-adays. In my humble opinion.

    • Total Posts 917

    There are many better commentators in Ireland.

    It’s certainly true that every commentary from Des Scahill follows a rigid framework. Exactly the same format with just a different set of names.
    John Penney, the former racecourse commentator in this country, was exactly the same, although I still liked him.
    But I quite like Dessie’s commentaries. As I said a couple of days ago on the David Fitzgerald commentator thread, I like the fact that he nearly always reels off a full list of the horses and their jockeys from start to finish at a suitable point in virtually every commentary in longer Flat races and over the jumps. Not many of other commentators do that so regularly.
    He also nearly always mentions the winning trainer and jockey as the leader comes up to the line, which certainly doesn’t happen with every commentator in this country. I quite like his longevity and reliability.
    There is an interesting story which can easily be accessed on the internet which contains a fascinating interview with him. In it, he sounds fed up and ready for retirement, and tells of the toll the travelling takes on him.
    I have included below part of a more recent feature in the Irish Times in which he again makes mention of the travelling but, perhaps conscious of the furore the previous interview gave and the calls it sparked for him to step down, he seems at the end to be giving a more positive message and saying that he is not ready to pack it in.
    Richard Pugh is a superb Irish commentator. But he is rarely heard because of his other commitments so would be highly unlikely to be a replacement as the main Irish commentator. He is, however, a breath of fresh air.
    Jerry Hannon is seen as the obvious heir apparent. His approach is basically that of a less lugubrious version of Scahill. He is quite fluent but I have to say I prefer Dessie. Peter O’Hehir is obviously very much a lesser light of the Irish course commentary scene but I have seen one or two people on this forum praise him. Tony O’Hehir is obviously tied up with his TV work.
    Dessie is an icon in Irish commentating. He has his critics but it will be the end of an era when he goes. He’s certainly Mr Reliable but nobody would try to pretend that he adds much colour to his commentaries. He’s methodical, which is admirable, and the way he can learn and master the names and colours of a series of often huge fields race after race is surely a brilliance in itself.

    This is the text of part of the Irish Times online article:

    If you’ve ever watched a horse race in Ireland, you’ve heard his voice. He’s the wallpaper in every room, the carpet on every floor. Always there, always assumed to be there. Utterly unnoticed unless something goes wrong. “When you’re right, you’re supposed to be right and when you’re wrong, you’re a gobaloon,” he says. “That’s the way of it. It’s very, very fickle. The margins are tiny.”
    He doesn’t sit up poring over the colours the night before a meeting. He knows he could but he’s too long in the game now to go changing the way he’s always done it. He arrives 90 minutes before the first race, takes the race card and goes through the first two races. “There’s no point in me looking at the colours for the fifth or sixth before the start of the others. You’d have too many colours, you’d only confuse the thing.”
    Half an hour before the first, he goes to the weigh-room. The assistant clerk of the scales gives him the jockey changes and the non-runners. He watches the jockeys weigh out in their silks and makes notes in the margin of his race card. As soon as the bell is rung for the jockeys to come out, he heads up to the commentary box. He’ll repeat the process for each race on the card.
    “I’ll watch them canter down to the start and when they’re at the start that’s where I put it together in my head. When they’re walking around at the start, I just keep banging through them one by one. Then they head off on their journey and you hope it will work out.”
    Once the race starts, he switches between the monitor in front of him when the horses are at the far end of the track and his binoculars as they come by the stands. The worst days are the best days, when a glorious sun blinds the lenses and causes the shine off the jockeys’ silks to make everything the one colour. Heavy ground is no picnic either, as it turns each jockey into the same shade of mud by the end. He doesn’t mind the fog, though. “At least with the fog, nobody else can see the horses either,” he laughs.
    Mistakes happen. He’s called a horse the wrong name the whole way round before and hasn’t realised until an owner or trainer has collared him afterwards. Falls happen at such a speed that the field can be at the next fence by the time he’s sorted out who went at the last one. There was a time when he’d take an educated guess if he saw a blue or a red go down. Nowadays, he waits. Better be right than be quick.
    “It has changed an awful lot over the years. When I started to do it first, you came to the racecourse, did the commentary and went home and that was that. You were doing it for a couple of hundred or maybe a couple of thousand people at the track and that was as far as it went.
    “But now it’s such a big money, global thing. If you believed everything you heard, every semblance of a mistake now is supposed to be costing fellas millions. With Betfair and betting-in-running on every race, it’s crazy now. I mean, how these fellas can be holding me responsible is beyond me. If they can’t back on their own opinion, how can they be backing on mine?”
    Beyond grumbling bettors and layers, the road is his greatest foe. He’s never off it. Living near Kildare town, he’s generally within a 90-minute drive of every course in the country now since the roads have been improved. Killarney would be the furthest he’d have to go but at least there, he’ll do an overnight because they always have a couple of days’ racing in a row in Killarney. But most days, he’s there and back in one. Fairyhouse Monday and Tuesday, Ballinrobe Wednesday, Tipperary Thursday, Kilbeggan Friday . . .
    “The travelling is the worst of it. You’re away all the time. My son is 25 today and I hardly can remember any of his birthdays. I have a daughter who was a great dancer all the way up and she’d land home every weekend with all these medals for dancing but sure I was never there to see her win them. Always on the road. That’s the worst side of it.”
    He’s not complaining though. It’s a fine life he’s carved out. A manic Manchester United fan, he can pick up the phone and Alex Ferguson will greet him cheerily on the other end. Well, as cheerily as he can muster. A single-figure golfer, he played alongside Rory McIlroy at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Adare last summer. He’s seen every great horse, jockey and trainer of your lifetime, not just on great days and but on days where only a couple of hundred souls paid on the gate.
    “I might have been a bit disenchanted with it all a few years ago but not anymore,” he says. “You come to appreciate it a lot in times like these. Plenty of people are struggling for work and I’m lucky to have a job like it.”

    • Total Posts 5503

    the road is his greatest foe. He’s never off it. Living near Kildare town, he’s generally within a 90-minute drive of every course in the country now since the roads have been improved. Killarney would be the furthest he’d have to go but at least there, he’ll do an overnight because they always have a couple of days’ racing in a row in Killarney. But most days, he’s there and back in one. Fairyhouse Monday and Tuesday, Ballinrobe Wednesday, Tipperary Thursday, Kilbeggan Friday . . .
    “The travelling is the worst of it. You’re away all the time.

    My heart bleeds Des. Be grateful for small mercies monotonous one

    One of the many joys of Ireland includes the ‘freedom of the road’: something denied the beleaguered British motorist since the1960s

    At 0830 the environs of Dublin may resemble the M25 off-peak, but other than that it’s the Jeremy Clarkson route-66-fantasy-wank-open-road, relatively speaking

    Belfast Airport to Sligo in two hours anyone?

    Via Derry and Limavady whatsmore :shock:

    As I said to the lady wife somehere in Donegal – "This is fking unbelievable" :)

    And please don’t get me started on the delights of the coast road via Wexford and Waterford to Cork City

    You lucky lot

    % MAN
    • Total Posts 5104

    It’s no secret that Dessie is fed up with the job and he is just working his time before he retires.

    In terms of his successor the best would be Gary O’Brien although I think it unlikely he would want the job, seemingly being quite happy with his ATR work.

    If it wasn’t Gary O’Brien then I think Richard Pugh is by far the best of the current Irish commentators.

    • Total Posts 271

    There was a fairly self serving interview with Dessie in last Saturdays Irish Racing Post.
    To sum it up he is bored with the job but can’t afford to retire. Betfair has done nothing for the game in Ireland.So what if he has a tendency to incorrectly decide a horse has fallen.

    Imperial Call
    • Total Posts 2184

    Ah Dessie is alright. Still gets himself up for the big races which is what matters. His call of Dawn Run’s Gold Cup is still the best commentary I’ve ever heard.

    grey dolphin
    • Total Posts 653

    I prefer commentaries that emphasise the shape of the race and the way it develops. Dessie doesn’t do that.

    If he hates the job, as he has apparently suggested, it’s a shame they can’t find a way to bring on new blood.

    • Total Posts 4012

    Best to turn the sound down,check the colors yourself and enjoy the race in silence.

    • Total Posts 87

    I’ll have to try and find Dessie’s interview from the Post last Saturday but from what I can remember that’s the way they are supposed to call a race, going right through the field so everyone on the course can hear their horse. His contract is up in a couple of years but he hopes to continue as he needs the money. The only problem I have with his calls, though he does make the occasional howler mixing up horses, which he freely admits to in the article. He is particularly scathing of the exchanges and doesn’t believe in laying of horses to lose.

    I prefer Jerry Hannon, like Des he’ll go through a field so you know where your horse is but he puts a lot more excitement into it, especially at the finish and is less prone to mistakes.

    That’s not to say I don’t like English commentators, it’s just they use a different style. I assume dictated more by the TV networks than by the racecourses. I think the current list of English commentators are probably the best I can remember. The likes of Johnston, Hoiles, Hunt, Machin and Owen are top class.

    • Total Posts 4012

    It seeems to me that all Dessie’s commentaries are the same.Change the horses and you still get they are approaching the next hurdle, they are approaching the turn in, they are app………..crap we don’t need.They are running down the hill to the turn in.Unless the viewer is totally unfamiliar with the Irish tracks we know that running down the hill leads to the turn in at Tramore,Navan, Down Royal etc etc.In fact most ,if not all Irish tracks have high ground on the far side of the track for viewing purposes.Jees’s sake Dessie tell us something new or original now and again.We can see or assume that if they have left a fence behind they must indeed be "approaching" the next one. They are all doing the same thing. No observation as to how they are doing individually. The leader is still in front.How about that for a guy bored with his job. He sounds bored and unwilling to put out the effort to justify his job.Turn of the sound and you get a better picture of what is happening.Has he ever taken the time to listen to himself? I bet he even bores himself.

    • Total Posts 569

    My wife calls him Droner Man.

    • Total Posts 52

    Interesting responses, maybe this is a regional preference? If you look at the commentary styles in Ireland, Britain,France,Aus and the USA they are all quite different in their approach to the call,presumably tuned to local taste

    I watch British racing daily and turn the sound off for the majority of it.The commentaries are littered with personal opinion or incorrect observations (Frankel is f i f t e e n lengths clear! Horse X is pulling double, Horse Y is travelling well, Horse Z looks well beaten, Jockey Q is poised) I leave sound on for the Irish commentaries, bar Richard Pugh.

    I personally want the names of prominant horses,general positions and the stage of the race/position on the track. That is it. I will talk with a friend about how we think the race is developing or analyse what I see myself if alone. It’s expecting too much for a commentator to attempt to get the call factually correct and entertain/analyse a race concurrently

    • Total Posts 917

    I watch British racing daily and turn the sound off for the majority of it.

    I can’t understand anyone who turns off the sound for TV races and has to figure it all out for themselves, especially if you’re just a casual viewer who hasn’t got a paper with all the jockeys’ colours in it.
    I can watch race after race on At The Races, in grainy soft focus as it’s not in high definition, and as the races often come up in quick succession, it would be totally pointless without the commentaries. Just a blurred set of indistinct horses.
    I would far rather listen to a bad commentary than none at all. In Ireland, listening even to Mogadon Man Peter O’Hehir is better than total silence.
    Des at least is consistent, solid and workmanlike, if unspectacular. He seems to have a bit of a reputation for missing fallers but that’s only very rarely, in my experience.
    A lot of people say they turn off the sound when Tommo is commentating. Again, I can’t understand it. He often makes a race for me, especially when he is on good form.

    • Total Posts 917

    My wife calls him Droner Man.

    I’m having all my illusions very sadly shattered on this forum. I was only just recovering after reading in a post by David Cormack on the Pinza thread that Matron is in fact a man.
    I had, in my innocence, fondly conjured up a picture of a large and formidable Hattie Jacques lookalike from the Carry On films. Images of Matron trying to dominate and smother the terrified Kenneth Williams had weighed heavily on my mind (even more so now if she’s really a man).
    Now, from this post, it seems like CarryOnKatie is also a man. I would like to think that the word "wife" is a clue to the fact that the "she" I had supposed she was is actually a "he", unless I have made another very unfortunate politically incorrect assumption.
    You will be telling me next that Pinza is in fact a woman. Possibly an old woman, granted, if not a big girl’s blouse.
    I’ll get my coat…..

    • Total Posts 52

    I watch British racing daily and turn the sound off for the majority of it.

    I can watch race after race on At The Races, in grainy soft focus as it’s not in high definition, and as the races often come up in quick succession, it would be totally pointless without the commentaries.

    I agree, It would be quite pointless watching race after race, such as on ATR, in silence without some knowledge of what you were watchng,even with just a paper it would be hard going,the caller can add a lot of value in this instance.

    • Total Posts 917

    Des Scahill seemed to do a good job at Fairyhouse today, picking up the fallers in the races I saw and doing his usual good job of mentioning the jockeys.
    He also seemed to call the correct runners in the race in which JP McManus had five runners, all with the same colours but different caps. I haven’t heard of any mistakes by him today.

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