Back in 1990, the now-defunct Sunday Tribune produced a supplement ahead of the Italia ’90 World Cup, in which each member of the team was profiled by talented journalists, aided by excellent access to their subject and the time required to squeeze out entertaining anecdotes.
I still recall an aunt presenting it to me and the tales within. Packie Bonner describing how playing midfield in Gaelic football helped him with his catching. Andy Townsend explaining his part-time obsession with snooker and lamenting the absence of the TV programme ‘Pot Black’.
With the players given the chance to relax, they revealed enough of themselves that the ordinary fan could identify with, so it was no wonder that team inspired such devotion.
Somewhere along the way, the job of sports writing became much harder, with restricted access and players becoming increasingly wary of saying too much. They were proved right too, as the tabloid thirst for anything of interest can spin a story 180 degrees.
This week though at Croke Park, two very interesting subjects were up for interview ahead of the Dublin v Wexford Leinster semi-final. On the Dublin side, we had Eamonn Fennell, aka DJ Trix & Trax.
He has recently founded his own company selling flat shoes to nightclubs, as he explained; “This idea just came around from a girl I know who slipped in a nightclub and broke her ankle and there was nothing there for her. She sued the nightclub and made a fortune. So I’m helping the nightclubs out and helping the girls out.”
And representing Wexford was Aindreas Doyle, who in his role as assistant to the infamous Mick Wallace TD has been snowed under a mountain of demands from the media. Here’s what he had to say of the past few weeks; “The first morning I came into work, I think it was a Friday morning, there was 35 phone messages, the next day was 27, then it went to 15, then 10, then something else happens and it goes back to 40.”
As a result, the journalists present tended to write their following-day stories as personality pieces, departing from the tired, ‘We have to respect our opponents’ guff, revealing a little bit more of what Aindreas Doyle and Eamon Fennell are like as human beings, allowing us to identify with them.
And that’s the best marketing that any sport can get.