A pint with...
A post-breakfast chat with Hector Ó hEochagáin
Hector Ó hEochagáin first cropped up in Irish consciousness thanks to performing hosting duties on a series of travel shows for TG4.
The Navan man is mad into his horses which resulted in him owning a racehorse and creating the series Only Fools Like Horses. His series Hanging with Hector saw him hang out with the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, as well as the likes of Ireland goalie Shay Given, world snooker champ Ken Doherty and top racehorse trainer Aiden O’Brien.
He’s been filmed following the Irish rugby squad around New Zealand and France, he’s trekked across Canada for eight weeks and he’s spent time hanging out with ordinary folk on a tour across Britain. Along the way he’s picked up a number of awards.
He’s known for his close friendship with comedian Tommy Tiernan – a friendship that goes back to their school days together back in Navan – and paired up with Tommy to present a run of successful, laid-back radio shows for RTÉ 2fm on Saturday mornings from Galway, where the two Meath men are now based.
On the back of that show’s success Hector was offered the chance to take the helm of RTÉ 2fm’s breakfast show, hosting Breakfast with Hector from 7am to 9am every weekday morning since last autumn.
JOE made the early morning trip down to the Galway studio to watch Ó hEochagáin in action as he spoke to the nation, before cornering him for a chat about early mornings, the world beyond Dublin, Canadian ganja, Cillit bang and Xabi Alonso.
JOE: Morning Hector. So we’re not going for pints then?
Hector: At 9am? Are you joking? We can have a pint of coffee if you like.
JOE: Grand, that’ll do. So how are you coping with this getting up early in the morning lark? Doing the RTÉ 2fm breakfast show must have put paid to your chance at an evening out?
Hector: I’m in bed every week night at half eight now, maybe 9 o’clock. I have the iPhone beside the bed so that I can watch livescores.com and I can watch the second half of Champions League games.
I used to go to bed at 8 o’clock when I started doing the show, but I couldn’t sleep, so I’ve got into a routine that suits me better now.
I don’t mind getting up early. I’ve got two alarm clocks: one wakes me up with the music from a band called Tinariwen who are the Traveling Wilburys of the northern Sahara, and the other one is a buzzer. The first goes off at 5.25am and the second one at 5.40am tells me I’ve definitely got to get out of bed.
JOE: Does this mean you’re on the staff at RTÉ now? Have you signed up to their generous pension scheme yet?
Hector: Actually I’m not on the staff. I’ve always been a freelancer and I still am. I like it that way.
JOE: If you like having your freelance lifestyle so much, what made you sign up to do the show?
Hector: To be able to do the breakfast show from Galway was a big thing for me, because I’ve got three young boys here. I can go to my local butcher at half nine, I can go to my local fruit man at 10 o’clock and I can be home in my house for 12 o’clock.
It’s also a big thing that RTÉ have let us do this show away from the mothership over in Dublin. It’s a big deal for RTÉ.
JOE: I’m guessing there’s no going out on the lash for you these days...
Hector: Not much– just lots of healthy living. Last weekend I had one glass of wine on Friday night, I was in bed by half ten on Saturday night and I’m fine with that. I’ve no interest in staying out late.
Now that doesn’t mean to say that there won’t be weekends when all the mates are down and we’ll all go out for a few beers, but 99 per cent of the time it’s bed early for me.
There’s just no way I could do the show with a hangover or without a proper night’s sleep. There’s too much going on, you need your wits about you. As Tommy Tiernan said to me the other day, you have to be able to press the button and be ready to go from as soon as the show starts. You can’t just sit there with a sore head and ease your way into it.
Tommy has the day to get ready for his night-time show, I’ve got to be clued in right from the start. But I do have the rest of the day off, which is the best thing about it.
I’m guessing that working on your new show has been a lot more intensive than the show that you and Tommy did previously...
Hector: What I’m doing now came out of those shows we did, but those shows were different altogether. We sat in here with the lights off for eight months with the lights off on Saturday mornings and had the craic. We had no idea what we were doing on that show, we’d just talk and play some music, then talk, then play some more music.
JOE: How do the audiences of the two shows differ?
Hector: There’s a different feel to people who are up on a Saturday morning. You’re either up because you’re still up and haven’t been to bed yet, which is the case with most young lads in this country, and then you have people who have got up, are milling around and want to be entertained.
There has to be more structure with a weekday breakfast show because you’re broadcasting to people who are getting ready to start the working day. But we still have the madness. It’s still there, just in a different way.
We did a thing the other day on obsessive compulsive disorders and I was telling the listeners about my cleaning product fads and routines – I’m very particular about my dishwasher tablets, I like descaling the kettle four or five times, l like having bleach in different colours in each of the toilets.