Zero Rucks Given: Jerry Flannery on being Ireland's premier sports analyst
Fla can do it in any language, he just chose Irish...
For me last weekend was a weekend off from football duties so I grabbed the chance to get home to Limerick, see the family and take in a Munster game at Thomond Park. It all came together very nicely as TG4 were in town to cover the game so I was even able to step back into my familiar old role as Ireland’s premier sports analyst once again. I’m often asked ask how I ended up working with TG4 and where did my amazingly fluent Irish come from? Well it was a bit of a journey and I suppose all journeys start somewhere so I might as well go back to the beginning,
Lots of people seem to think I’m pretty intense when it comes to the TV analysis game but I take my work seriously. Maybe it's down to that old competitive streak that served me so well over the course of my rugby career but I knew the moment I crossed over from playing to being in front of the camera, I was never going to play second fiddle to anyone.
I’d spoken with my agent prior to the announcement of my tragic retirement and he warned me that I’d better be ready. There was a storm coming and I was going to be inundated with offers of TV work. I also knew that if I wanted to be the best I had to put the work in. TV work isn’t that different from rugby really. First of all you’ve got to take a look at yourself, what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses? Then there’s the competition, how do you measure up? I took some time out post retirement to do a little self reflection. I started with my strengths.
First up was screen presence. I’ve always been a composed performer when the pressure comes on so the glare of the lights and the focus of the camera held no fears for me. This, however, was not the case with all my competitors. George Hook had set the bar incredibly low by consistently behaving like a granddad who’s been startled by a loud fart and starts ranting nonsensically. The others that followed had obviously looked to steal a march here. They were all former international players from the professional era with a real depth of knowledge on the game. They had played at the highest level and won trophies. When it came to analysis on the modern game these guys were legit.
This didn’t mean they were infallible though. I looked for weaknesses I could expose. I watched time after time as Frankie Sheahan used his hands to describe every single point he was making, usually always about reset scrums or the performance of Peter O’Mahony. Alan Quinlan was sharp but he struggled by trying to mask his Tipperary accent with a put-on posh accent and would inevitably crumble whenever he was faced with pronouncing the French referee, Romain Poite’s name.
Shane Horgan was a real threat but I was confident that the fact that he was clearly dyeing his hair black would undermine any serious insights he was making. I was always thorough in my preparation as a player and I swore to myself this would continue into my TV work.
I cast an eye over the Sky Sports crew. Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris were tricky. They were winners as players and they had an ability to polish a turd to the point where you’d watch the shittest game ever and they’d have you believe that this was the greatest game you’d ever seen.
They were worthy adversaries but their on screen chumminess often seemed to cross over to a lusty vibe and one worried whether they were about to tear each other's clothes off and ravage each other live on TV.
That left Paul Wallace. The guy was the starting tighthead on a successful Lions test series win over South Africa. No doubt he knew what it took to get to the top yet, when it came to TV he always reminded me of a child sitting at a table full of adults shouting for attention, his innocent little face crying out for acceptance.
Now that's what I'm talking about...
Next on the list was appearance. Aesthetically I knew I had a massive advantage over the rest. I’d spent years in the gym honing my physique and as I leaned out post rugby I was really able to up my game on the fashion side of things.
This was an area the competition were weak. George Hook had historically set the bar low by trying to dress like some sort of wacky clown and this was compounded by Sky and RTE’s usage of XXXL sized rain jackets for the likes of Sheahan, Quinlan and Horgan.
I made a point of investing in some high end designer suits and stylish overcoats to accentuate my work in the gym. TV work is funny because it’s mainly conducted in a frontal view. This meant that folks at home wouldn’t get to fully appreciate the side on view of the thick chest I had developed. It wasn’t fair on them and I wanted to give them a show they wouldn’t forget.
I got very strict with my carbohydrate intake and spent a lot of time focusing on wide grip pull ups and single arm dumb bell rows to develop my lats and create an extremely pleasing V shape for the viewers at home.
I was already pretty aesthetic but I thought to myself, “people at home pay a lot of money for their TV licence so they deserve the best, nobody forks out their hard earned money to look at a fat bastard”. The people of Ireland deserved the best and I was going to do everything in my power to deliver for them.
However, my greatest move of all in gaining separation from the herd was a trick that none of the others possessed. Aesthetics? Yeah I got that. Pedigree? Bitch please, I won all types of medals, my credentials were solid. Confidence and composure on camera? That’s locked down brah.
No, I chose to set myself apart by doing everything my competitors could do but with a different angle. I took full advantage of my strong grasp of primary school Irish to differentiate myself from the competition and place myself on top of the rugby analysts leaderboard. Now with my master plan complete I can proudly say I've accomplished my goal as the boss of rugby experts. It feels good.
That is until Luke Fitzgerald or Donnacha Ryan retire, then I'm off back to the scrap heap...