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Dublin: 9°C Friday 7 May 2021

11 sports stars who have made successful transitions to TV

Brian O’Driscoll may look to these figures for inspiration ahead of his own move to BT Sport.

FOLLOWING THE NEWS that Brian O’Driscoll will join BT Sport as a rugby expert for the upcoming season, we got to thinking about former sports stars who have made the transition onto TV with success.

The ex-Ireland, Leinster and Lions centre seems a good fit for television work, with his understanding of the sport, affable personality and high profile sure to to draw new viewers to BT’s rugby coverage.

Not that ability on the field naturally means punditry is going to be an easy duty. There are completely different demands involved, but O’Driscoll might do well to learn from the following ex-sportsmen and women who have transferred into TV work well.


Shane Horgan

Shane Horgan working for RTE Television Horgan in action with RTÉ. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Looking to his immediate predecessors in transitioning from professional rugby onto the screen, O’Driscoll will take heed of Shaggy’s example. The former Leinster wing is knowledgeable, articulate, able to have a laugh and shows that he has his research done.

Ronan O’Gara

Ronan O'Gara working for RTE Television O'Gara and Horgan's interview with Andrew Trimble in Paris after the Six Nations triumph was superb. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

In a similar vein, ROG has brought new life to RTÉ’s rugby coverage, offering honest opinions and insight into many players he knows well. His double act with Horgan has swiftly become a highlight of the Irish broadcaster’s package.

Gary Neville

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group D - Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund - Etihad Stadium Neville gets his knowledge across in basic, understandable language. Source: EMPICS Sport

Another of the new breed of sports pundits, the England coach offers fascinating insight into football with his understandable, yet in-depth analysis. The ex-Man United right back combines those technical and tactical strengths with personality. He did away with the cliché and slowed the game down to a pace the world could follow.

Troy Aikman

Cowboys Eagles Football Aikman [R] watches Tony Romo warming up before an NFL tie. Source: Michael Perez

When a three-time Super Bowl winner tells you what he thinks about the game of American football, you tend to sit up and listen. As well as his TV work, the former Dallas Cowboy also works in sports radio and while his analysis can be sometimes overly simplistic, that’s more to do with the nature of his audience and the station he works for than Aikman’s ability as a pundit.

Richie Sadlier

Richard Sadlier Sadlier's relationship with Kenny Cunningham was entertaining during the World Cup. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The former Millwall striker is proof that great pundits don’t necessarily need to have been the biggest stars in their playing days. While Sadlier is perhaps still better suited to the longer-form medium of radio, his clear-headed arguments have added to RTÉ’s football coverage.

Donal Óg Cusack

inpho_00695536 (1)

The one-time Cork goalkeeper is another to have looked at ease on TV, offering intelligent opinions and tactical awareness. Cusack has also developed into a fine sports writer, with some exceptional pieces during the World Cup.

Denise Lewis

BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lewis won gold in 2000. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

The 2000 Olympic gold medallist has been a strong addition to BBC’s athletics coverage since retiring. Lewis understands the mindset of the competitors better than several of her peers, in turn offering the viewer an appreciation of the pressure on athletes.

Gary Lineker

TRIC Awards - London Lineker is an award-winning presenter. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Should O’Driscoll come to see himself as a potential presenter in the long-term, Lineker’s progress serves as a fine example. The BBC front man has his critics, but in an age where the presenter must have his own deep knowledge of the sport in question, the former England striker is rarely left stranded by the flow of the conversation.

Charles Barkley

Heat Cavaliers Basketball Charles Barkley [R] takes in an NBA game with NFL star Terrell Owens. Source: David Richard

‘Chuck’ tends to play it straight. If he thinks it, he says it and if he says it, it’s very likely that players and fans will listen. He doesn’t always get it right and is not easily swayed from an opinion, but his ‘real talk’ makes him a favourite with both the media and NBA fans. Maybe not always with NBA players mind.

Brian Moore

Rugby Union - Rugby Expo 2010 - Day 2 - RHS Lawrence Hall Former England hooker Moore is usually forthright in offering his opinions. Source: Andrew Matthews

Again, a figure who is a bit like marmite for sports fans, and one who has branched into a slightly different avenue of TV coverage. His rugby co-commentary brings a refreshing no-BS approach and to describe his knowledge of scrum laws as ‘in-depth’ would be putting it mildly.

Jamesie O’Connor

Brian Carney and Rachel Wyse with Jamesie OÕConnor and Ollie Canning Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The former Clare All-Ireland winner is relatively new to the TV punditry game having taken on a new role with Sky’s GAA coverage in May, but has eased into it with as much comfort as any man who has to work alongside Brian Carney’s hair. With his giant iPad, the four-time All-Star is as comfortable explaining the basics of the game for his new British viewers as he is at delving into the minutiae of hurling tactics.

Who is your favourite former ex-pro on TV and why? Do you think O’Driscoll will be a success with BT Sport?

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