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What did you make of Soccer Republic's debut?

RTÉ’s SSE Airtricity League highlights show kicked-off at a brand new time last night.

MUCH HAS BEEN made about the rebranding of RTÉ’s League of Ireland highlights programme since it was announced last month.

Some fans pointed to the shift to a new slot (from 7pm to 11.05pm) as a step in the wrong direction, especially for children hoping to watch it, while others have bemoaned the fact that Peter Collins has stayed on as presenter.

We were told that there would be new guests and analysis “with the latest technology”, while coverage would go beyond the SSE Airtricity League with discussion on Ireland’s senior side and the Champions League too.

With that in mind, we eagerly tuned in last night to witness the first taste of ‘Soccer Republic’ — formerly known as ‘MNS’.

Apart from a new theme tune and a different studio set, Collins, Tony McDonnell and Richie Sadlier were joined by a genuine legend of the game in Paul McGrath.

Soccer Republic set Source: RTE Player

And there was a clear emphasis to focus on the biggest names in Irish football as Tony O’Donoghue talked up Martin O’Neill’s presence at the league launch a couple of weeks ago before reminding us of the President’s Cup and last week’s international friendly.

The first league game up for review was Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Shamrock Rovers and Derry City, which had been televised live on RTÉ.

We were introduced to a new gadget as McDonnell took up the role Gary Neville holds on Sky Sports by breaking down the goals.

Soccer Republic gadget Source: RTE Player

While it is encouraging that they are attempting to move with the times, later in the programme, particularly when they discussed Keith Fahey, it seemed it was being used simply for the sake of it.

Old regulars such as ‘Raiders of the Lost Archive’ and ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ have been replaced by a number of new additions as Jimmy Magee picked his best Shamrock Rovers XI of all-time and later on actor Laurence Kinlan aka Elmo from Love/Hate was asked a set of football-related questions in ‘Celebrity Six’.

The ‘Crossbar Challenge’ made famous by Soccer AM has evolved into ‘Free-Kick King’ it seems, as the Shamrock Rovers players were tasked with curling the ball around a wall and past a goalkeeper as Magee did running commentary.

Sheppard Source: RTE Player

What seemed slightly strange was the fact that the Hoops were chosen to begin the series given a couple of the other features had already focused on them — Ireland boss O’Neill would also be interviewed about playing for a Rovers selection against Brazil in 1973.

Next, the most high-profile signing of the close-season, Keith Fahey, went back to where he had trained while unattached (Bushy Park) for a chat with former LOI midfielder Alan Cawley, who looks set to feature throughout the season.

In terms of the highlights, not a whole lot has changed with the commentary and studio analysis remaining the same (we’ll forgive “Joseph” Hoban) but you do wonder if some of the games are now getting less time in order to fit in the recent additions.

For instance, the final section of the show saw the panellists discuss this week’s Champions League. It’s clear what they are attempting to do by branching out into more general football chat but does it work here? I’m not too sure.

All-in-all, last night’s show was a decent first effort with some positive points but plenty to improve upon.

As previous programmes have proved, Irish domestic football is notoriously difficult to cover in a way that will keep everyone happy but I for one will be tuning in next week.

Here is a selection of tweets about Soccer Republic’s debut:

Soccer Republic 1

Soccer Republic 2

Soccer Republic 3

Soccer Republic 4

Soccer republic 5

Soccer Republic 6

Soccer Republic 7

What did you think? If you haven’t seen it, Soccer Republic is available to watch on the RTÉ Player here.

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Ben Blake

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