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Planet Earth references and Ken Early's underwear: Second Captains 750 podcasts on

We chat to presenter of the hugely-popular sports show, Eoin McDevitt, ahead of its latest milestone.

Second Captains will have Brian 'US Murph' Murphy with them at 'The Gang's All Here' this Sunday.
Second Captains will have Brian 'US Murph' Murphy with them at 'The Gang's All Here' this Sunday.
Image: YouTube

THERE’S NO OTHER podcast in Ireland that could seamlessly integrate Planet Earth references into a conversation about sport quite like Second Captains.

That’s something that presenter Eoin McDevitt has been committing to in recent episodes and the results have been predictably entertaining.

Earlier in the year, while the Second Captains were recording episodes from New York, McDevitt regaled the crew about his mortifying exchange with Henry Shefflin, who they had recruited to feature in the stateside shows.

While trading tales about their previous trips to the city, McDevitt tells Shefflin he ran the New York City marathon in such a way that unintentionally suggests that he’s closing in on the sporting achievements of the ten-time All-Ireland winning hurler.

There’s also the episode where soccer correspondent Ken Early has just arrived in his base in Marseille for Euro 2016 and horrifies McDevitt and Murph (Ciarán Murphy) back in Ireland with a confession that he’s talking to them wearing nothing but his underwear. In the follow-up episode, Murph lingers on that image of Early, remarking “nothing between us but a thin stretch of polyester and cotton mix”.

Whether by accident or design, chats about the banalities of life and other wider issues have always formed a nice juxtaposition alongside the sports stuff on Second Captains.

Dermot Rigley, Ciaran Murphy, Eoin McDevitt and Ken Early with Jane Chmara Ciarán Murphy, Eoin McDevitt and Ken Early Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And the diversions from the script certainly haven’t caused any dissolution in the listenership. Scroll down the Irish Times Second Captains Soundcloud page and you’ll see double digit numbers punctuated by a ‘K’ beside each audio file. No apologies needed for their interesting tangents.

“We do try and bring in stuff that is actually happening in our lives” McDevitt told The42, “because things that are happening in people’s lives can often be quite funny. In the case of Murph and Ken, they’re both great at talking about wider things.

“We have these conversations in the office between the five of us about stuff that isn’t just sport. There does come a point where we are sports journalists but we’ve got us much right to have an opinion as anybody else so why not?”

When you think of the crew which comprises the Second Captains, McDevitt, Ken and Murph are the ones with the biggest profiles. But working the controls behind it all are the production team of Simon Hick and Mark Horgan, who are better known among the cohort of devout listeners.

McDevitt stresses that the recognition is not a core factor. However, having conveniently crunched the numbers in advance of our chat, he was able to tell me that his number of Twitter followers are advancing on Ciarán level of fandom. There’s a margin of 1.4k followers separating them based on the most recent calculation.

I don’t think any of us are obsessed with that side of it,” says McDevitt. “I actually quite like when people who listen to the podcast a lot and really engage with it. Often times they will know who the guys (Hick and Horgan) are. One listener sent in an audio bed and expressed his admiration for the beds that Mark is putting together.

“Everything is collaborative. Someone will have an initial idea and bash it off everyone else.”

Second Captains first formed in 2013 — shortly after the quintet’s departure from Newstalk — following a sequence of meetings at Horgan’s house “hatching plans”, according to McDevitt. Preparing for The Irish Times show consists of formal meetings and WhatsApp messages. Generally though, once they’ve selected the right guests, McDevitt feels confident they can “do a good show regardless”.

Variety between the topics discussed is always guaranteed and amidst the humour, they’ve covered some harder issues. From domestic abuse to addiction issues, they’ve tackled them all with integrity.

One of their most prominent interviews dates back to late last year when they invited former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness onto the TV show to promote his new book ‘Until Victory, Always’.

During it, McDevitt addressed aspects of the book regarding references to current boss Rory Gallagher and former player Kevin Cassidy, which he felt left McGuinness prone to accusations of a double standard.

Reflecting on it now, McDevitt admits that the tense exchange sent his heart-rate soaring, but he knew his course was true.

As long as you can think in your own head, you can back up what you’re asking, I think you have to stick to it. I’d also say that I don’t mind doing those interviews that do get a little prickly because it makes you think a little bit more and analyse, “why am I doing this? was it right to ask that?”‘

Last year, Second Captains launched a book entitled The Second Captains Sports Annual, Volume 1, to look at the highlights of 2015. It turned out to be a successful enterprise and the sequel, Volume 2, has just been released.

For his contribution, McDevitt chose to interview Michael Conlan. The injustice at Rio and the explosive TV interview that followed formed part of his motivation to chase it. But the intrigue in Conlan stretches further back than that.

“I chatted to him on the podcast in late 2015 around the time of the World Championships. He had just won the World Championships. What I was struck by was his confidence, he was talking like Conor McGregor.

“The first time I interviewed him was just before the London Olympics and he was just like a young kid, very quiet, very nice and he still is the same, he’s still a very nice guy. But I noticed this steely edge to him, this real confidence that was both real but also I think he was going for the McGregor effect of talking himself up and willing himself to be even better than he is.

“Even then he was talking about going professional and becoming a multi-weight world champion. I was really watching with interest what was happening to him at the Olympic Games.”

In his college days, McDevitt was focused on becoming a print journalist but the subsequent years saw him deflect into the world of broadcasting. Documenting his chat with Conlan in Belfast helped him to reconnect with those days and ironically, it turned out to be an interview more suited to print than a podcast.

“It was funny, his daughter is about 18 months and she was trying to get his attention. She wanted to go swimming and she certainly didn’t want to be sitting around listening to him talking about what happened in Rio. She was great but there were a few times he had to stop his train of thought and make sure she was ok and then come back and talk.”

Davy Fitzgerald with the Liam McCarthy cup speaks with Ciaran Murphy of Second Captains Murph and Davy Fitzgerald after Clare won the 2013 All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He adds: “He had a great ability to pick up the thread of what he was saying and then get straight back in. When you’re interviewing somebody it can sometimes be ‘oh where were we’ and also, you’re in the middle of getting a good answer and it tails off and you start again.”

I remember thinking ‘if this was a podcast interview, I’m not sure how well it’s actually flowing.’ But I  knew there was loads of good nuggets in there and he was so generous with his time.”

Second Captains are 750 podcasts deep into the journey and that’s what they’re celebrating this weekend with ‘The Gang’s All Here’ show at the Liberty Hall. Tickets sold out within hours and the line-up of guests is assembling nicely.

Tadhg Furlong and regular visitor to the Second Captains parish Andy Lee, are confirmed along with TheJournal’s Sinead O’Carroll, while show favourite Brian ‘US Murph’ Murphy is also travelling over. They also have a Sunday show on RTE Radio 1 which has been confirmed for next year’s schedule.

Second Captains are sailing their own ship and the course is true.

“Owning what you do has been quite liberating. Even though it’s tricky days at the very start, looking back I think it’s character forming. It makes you think about your career, and what exactly you want to get out of it and where you want to go and who you want to do it with.”

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