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'People like to hate George' - Here are our 18 favourite quotes from when Miriam met Hook and Popey

The dynamic duo recently sat down for an intimate chat.

George Hook and Brent Pope (file photo).
George Hook and Brent Pope (file photo).

GEORGE HOOK AND BRENT Pope, RTE’s resident rugby experts, recently sat down for a chat with the presenter Miriam O’Callaghan.

Consequently, we’ve decided to compile the 18 most hilarious, surprising and insightful quotes from the said interview.

Check out the highlights from their discussion below, encompassing Brian O’Driscoll, social media, guy love and much more.

1. On their personality differences: Hook – It’s not a match made in heaven.We only meet when there’s rugby – we don’t go to each other’s houses, we don’t go out for stout, it’s very much a professional relationship, although after the best part of two decades, it’s a very close one.

2. On their different approaches to punditry: Hook - We are intensely different. I do a whole thing about getting up early and reading newspapers. And I have a tradition about going and having a huge breakfast. He’s a lot more relaxed than I am. Pope – Even as a coach, I liked to watch things unfold as they happened rather than have a fistful of notes. I would just see what was happening there and then and assess it. It’d be fair to say George has gone and researched stuff more than I have. That’s not to say we’re any less knowledgeable [than one another].

3. On their different cultural backgrounds: Hook – If you come from New Zealand, you come from a country where every man, woman and child is involved in the game.  You were always a middle-class minority type of sport [in Ireland], so that’s the way you think about it in Ireland. Pope - George is right, I came from a country where, as soon as you fell out of the cot, you played rugby.

4. On pre-match nerves: Hook - I get incredibly nervous before radio, television or any event, but when the red light goes on, it all goes away. And that accounts for the preparation. Mark Twain said it takes three weeks to make a worthwhile off-the-cuff remark. I believe in three weeks preparation. So I worry interminably that I’m not going to know the answer.

5. On their apathy towards players’ feelings: Hook - I came to this so late in life. I said I’ll either make it or I won’t make it and I can’t be worried about what those people think. So the people listening who, in their droves in tweets and texts tell me I’m an eejit, I’m fine with it.

6. On working with George: Pope – George can be difficult to work with to a certain degree because he’s a perfectionist. But for me, it will be a sad day when that partnership of ours breaks up. People like to hate George, it’s the villain thing.

7. On indifference to people’s opinions: Hook – I’m perfectly happy whether they love or hate me, so long as they watch. My real worry is that they don’t watch me. When on Sunday morning, I’m pushing the trolley in Superquinn in Blackrock, with the lovely Ingrid, I would be devastated if they didn’t come up to me. That’s why my number is in the telephone book. Call me! When someone comes up to you, it’s an affirmation of your work.

8. On sensitivity: Pope – I’m more sensitive than George. I get hurt easier. I don’t look on Twitter. If I overhear somebody making a commentary about me, my first reaction is: ‘But you don’t really know me.’ And that hurts me sometimes.

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(Hook and Pope have been stalwarts of the RTE punditry team for years now – INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

9. On social media: Hook – It’s anonymous, so people say the cruellest things. To all you Twitterati, it’s water off a duck’s back to me, but it’s not to Brent… Being universally loved means you’ve actually done nothing or said nothing. It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about having an opinion. When the fella or woman sitting at home throws the shoe at the TV, we’ve actually done our job.

10. On influences: Hook – The person who had a great influence on my TV career was the great Bill O’Herlihy. It was my first match – Ireland v Wales. I said that ‘Eric Miller has very high cardiovascular endurance’ and Bill said, in his best Cork accent: “What do you mean by that boy?’ And what he proved was, I was using words that people don’t understand.

11. On their credentials as pundits: Pope – People say ‘I don’t know the rules, but I watched the second half and it was brilliant’ – that is the people we are appealing to. The people who say George doesn’t know that or George doesn’t know x, y and z [are being] unfair. If you look at the football panel, yes there’s been better players that have played for Ireland than Eamon Dunphy, but Eamon has brought something to it and people love them. Hook – The great thing about RTE is they’re not ageist, I leave my toupee at home. If you look at American television, they tick all the boxes.

12 On their relationship: Pope - I respect that George has turned his life around at 59 or 60 years of age. We’re not friends in terms of what we have in common. We have arguments – none of our arguments are scripted. George is a more controversial person than me, and I accept that.

13. On George’s best/worst point: Pope - George is a wordsmith. He’s an incredibly well-read man and that’s the success of his radio show. His worst point is the same – it doesn’t matter who you are, George is going to know more than that guy.

14. On Popey’s best/worst point: Hook - The worst one pops into my head very quickly. He remains a quintessential New Zealander. I find New Zealanders quite difficult. They think they’re the only ones who know anything about rugby. It comes out sometimes in a superiority complex. The secret of friendship is that you’re away from each other for two or three months and then, pick it up again as if it were a day later. That’s what I find with him – there’s a tremendous consistency about him. He’s not someone who goes with the wind. I hate people who roll with the wind.

15. On ‘love between men’: Hook – I actually believe in love between men. I’m not talking about gay love. It’s much more powerful and our wives sometimes don’t understand that their husbands or boyfriends or whatever can have this intensity of a relationship with a man. I look at him as somebody I could depend on.

16. On the virtues of rugby: Hook - If I had my time again – my commitment to rugby was such that I ignored my wife and family. Therefore, I’d do it differently. When my business was falling apart, everything was falling apart, rugby was the one thing I was good at. I was saying to myself, ‘you were failure as a father, you were a failure as a husband, you were a failure as a businessman’. A lack of self esteem was there, but I said: ‘Well you’re a good coach’. What I say to young people is – you have to be an expert at something to get a job. Rugby gave me an opportunity to do what I always want to do, which is talk about it.

17. On O’Driscoll: Hook - I think O’Driscoll may be the greatest rugby player of all time. Because, unlike most sportsmen, in their declining years, they decline. And here is O’Driscoll, in his declining years, and he appears to be better than ever. He’s also the most courageous person I’ve seen on a rugby pitch. And rugby isn’t a beautiful sport. Hurling is a thing of beauty.  Pope - Brian O’Driscoll is revered and most New Zealanders think of him as one of the greatest players of all time.

18. On the Cycle Against Suicide: Pope – I’ve lost too many friends through depression, right from my school days and including three guys I played with on the same team when I was in the States. It is a tragedy for young people to think there’s nothing worth living for. I was approached for the Cycle Against Suicide. I do a lot of work for mental health and I thought it was a brilliant idea. People are getting out there just saying it’s okay to say it’s not okay. Speak to somebody. You don’t have to fit a stereotype, you just have to be good with yourself.

The Cycle Against Suicide takes place between 27 April and 5 May countrywide. More information can be found at www.cycleagainstsuicide.com.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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