As the consumption of football media continues to increase, the role of the humble television pundit is becoming an ever more prominent one within the sport.
The words provided by those on our TV screens every weekend are discussed and dissected more than any others, perhaps even more so tham players and managers. The likes of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have launched football punditry into a new stratosphere over the last decade or so, with the effects being felt throughout the game.
The interest around the opinions of these former pros is remarkable. As a media outlet, we here at Balls know that the halftime and post-match conversation around a match can actually draw far more interest than anything that happens on the pitch.
Of course, with that added interest comes extra scrutiny. That can become even more of an issue when discussing nuanced issues, ones that can be hard to fit into a time sensitive conversation on live TV.
While the Premier League may still be on a different level, Irish football has had its own punditry renaissance in recent times. Much of that revolves around the national team, where the Stephen Kenny era has been dominated by fraught debates over the direction the Republic of Ireland are heading in.
It is a conversation that has multiple layers, ones that be difficult to tackle in a TV studio. Despite this, Richie Sadlier is certainly enjoying the piqued interest in the fortunes of the team.
Speaking to Balls in his role as ambassador for the Don’t Settle. Talk ED campaign, the RTÉ pundit said that he tries to replicate the conversation that is being had in pubs and living rooms around the country.
We have meetings before every programme, and obviously you go into games thinking certain players or topics are going to be discussed beforehand and then you react to what happens in the match. I always ask ‘what’s the time we have in each section?’
The producers are probably driven mad by me asking what time is there...
Is it challenging to have a discussion? No, to be honest. I have a view and RTÉ are great in that they just let us share our views.
They don’t tell us to have the same views or deter us from having debates, we are just given a certain amount of time and let us do our jobs. I like that.
I know there are lads working on channels abroad who aren’t given that freedom, there is a bit more editorial control or direction and certain inputs from other people that they have to factor in. RTÉ don’t tell us that at all.
It’s great once you get your head around the idea that you have to be snappy, I can still make a balls of that sometimes. It’s just two or three people sitting there talking about the Irish football team, so you’re replicating what is happening in every sitting room that is watching the match as well.
The debate around Stephen Kenny's as the right man to lead Ireland forward has been dialled down to an extent after the side's recent run of good form.
However, this has only led into a conversation about the manager's contract status and whether the FAI should wait before offering him an extension on his current deal that runs out in June of next year.
Sadlier himself has been involved in one or two spirited conversations on the matter in recent times.
Again @RichieSadlier and Liam Brady differ as to the merits of Stephen Kenny getting another contract, with Liam saying the manager should get a "one-year" extension https://t.co/bZMmmPDnlUhttps://t.co/S3peXTz49Thttps://t.co/tVlUbVGenb #RTEsoccer #LUXIRL pic.twitter.com/YMk0QU2Ra3
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 14, 2021
Conversations such as this one have contributed to what seems like a bit more conflict within the RTÉ panel in recent years. The national broadcaster had lost some of that over the years, moving in a new direction after Eamon Dunphy's departure a number of years ago.
A hearty debate between panellists is certainly no bad thing for the viewers sitting at home, with the added interest in Ireland's fortunes meaning this is becoming an ever more frequent occurrence in their broadcasts.
Does Sadlier feel there has been a bit more 'needle' in some of his conversations as of late?
Ah yeah, but I like that...
When you have a topic that energises you a little bit and somebody else in the studio has something to say on it as well, whether you agree or disagree on it kind of doesn’t matter, the job becomes so much more fun.
It’s also much easier, because you’re talking about something you care about or feel strongly about rather than giving some boring answer about how Juventus are going to react to the latest setback.
It can be a game between two teams that nobody watching really cares about, and that’s fine because it’s part of covering the match we just watched.
But when there’s a topic to be discussed that you feel strongly about and somebody disagrees, I’m always grateful we are in RTÉ when that happens because they won’t cut down on those types of debate.
Research conducted by the campaign found that 38% of men would be embarrassed to seek medical help for erectile dysfunction. The first step for anyone with ED symptoms is to talk to a trusted healthcare professional such as a pharmacist or GP who can advise on treatment options. ED is treatable in most cases and it is not something that men should have to put up with.
Such debates often make for incredibly entertaining viewing. At times, you can't help but wonder if those involved have a laugh about the words exchanged once the cameras have been switched off.
Sadlier says this isn't always the case.
He has had experiences where it has carried over into some rather 'frosty' exchanges off camera.
There have been times, and I won’t name names, where I’ve been in the studio and the aftermath of certain conversations are very frosty. You’re off air and there is no handshake, you go one way and the person goes the other way, or it’s all fairly short and blunt afterwards. That’s part of the job…
I’ve never had a heated debate or fallen out with anyone that I would intentionally spend time with between matches.
Have I ever fallen out with somebody on air where I’ve had a debate and you see it on TV and go ‘I wonder if those two like each other or not’? That doesn’t bother me at all because there is no socialising being planned so it won’t impact my life away from the job. I might get myself into trouble here!
Unfortunately for the viewers, Sadlier's comments in the RTÉ studio around the Ireland team are set to be put largely on ice until next March, by which time the debate around Stephen Kenny's contract will surely have been settled.
If not, you can look forward to plenty more of these type of debates...
The 'Don’t Settle. Talk ED' campaign aims to get men talking about erectile dysfunction in an open and frank manner and to encourage men not to settle or put up with the symptoms of ED; instead talk to a healthcare professional.