Anger and passion for sport inspires this 'sideways look' at punditry

Premier League comedy team Apres Match bring tour to the Lime Tree

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

Anger and passion for sport inspires this 'sideways look' at punditry

Barry Murphy, Gary Cooke and Risteard Cooper in Apres Match, playing in the Lime Tree on February 5

RISTEARD Cooper has a very clear memory of being fascinated with sport as a child and particularly how it was covered on TV.

Later, as a teenager – “about 13 or 14” – he recorded a skit in his bedroom of what he had just seen on television, namely three pundits by the name o f O’Herlihy, Dunphy and Giles.

“Whatever the combination of personalities and the chemistry between them, it struck a chord with me at that age and I instantly found it funny,” says the Apres Match star, also a noted theatre and television actor in his own right.

“I found the way they spoke funny and not just that, but how passionately they spoke. It was as if they were dissecting some kind of science - they were dealing with nuclear physics. I just thought it was hilarious.”

Apres Match’s origins can be traced back to a football skit Cooper’s colleague Barry Murphy performed in 1994, before the duo teamed up for the Euros in 1996, becoming a trio with Gary Cooke for the World Cup in 1998.

The sketch show has become a staple of RTE’s sports coverage in the years since, much loved by fans – and some – pundits alike. The characters and impressions have become legendary and it has evolved to take in other sports and current affairs, notably Cooper’s own impressions of George Hook and Pat Kenny.

Currently working on an election show for RTE, the trio elected to take the Apres Match of the Day show out on the road, calling to the Lime Tree next week. He says the live forum has a “very different discipline and approach” to television.

“When you are doing a comedy show, there has to be a certain looseness and flexibility in how you approach it and how you perform it, and that certainly doesn't make it any easier, it is just that it is a different muscle that you use.

“It is always a bit of an experiment,” he laughs. “The audience really love it when you try something a bit different or a bit new and they know there is a bit of risk involved, in a way it is more exciting because they can kind of sense that you don't really know where it is going.”

The catalyst for a sketch, he says, is “hard to pinpoint”. Certainly the trio are reactive to the big stories of the day – and in seeking to lampoon them.

“Very often it is actually something that might piss us off or make us pretty angry,” says Risteard. “I feel very passionately about sport and the way it is presented and all that, and how the media have a big role in covering things in a particular way. The way I react to that is just to take the mickey out of it, as opposed to taking it too seriously. It is our sideways take on the whole thing.”

“The bottom line for all three of us is that we make each other laugh, and that is usually the best testing ground for whether we use something or not. I think that is one of the reasons we have kept going as well, we do laugh at each other quite a lot and honestly, it is more fun to do it that way, rather than just going through the motions.”

Apres Match play the Lime Tree on February 5. See www.limetreetheatre.ie for tickets.