HECTOR SKELTER?Hector Ó hEochagáin has made the leap from radio back onto our TV screens – and he’s loving it.
Life’s a bit Hector
He has one of the most recognised faces and voices in Ireland. He’s known for his exuberant personality, love of horses and grá for the Irish language. These days though, Hector Ó hEochagáin is enjoying the quieter side of life, taking his two sons to school and taking care of all things domestic in he and his wife Dympna’s Galway home.
It’s a far cry from the 5am wake-up calls of his radio days, but Hector tells The Mayo News he is enjoying the work/life balance.
“This is a whole new lifestyle, after three years of getting up at half past five in the morning. I’m enjoying watching the Champions League, having a lie-in. I’m enjoying it, it’s different,” he enthuses.
So does he miss his radio days? “The radio’s done now,” he says, and you can tell he means it. He’s moving on, but with great affection for his listeners.
He recalls that while filming with Vaughan he received his last ever ratings review for his breakfast show. He’d gained 12,000 listeners – the biggest jump of the year.
“I went into Inch’s pub to have a pint to celebrate with the crew, because that was just a show of appreciation from the listeners, my soldiers of the dawn as I call them. I cant’t walk five yards without people saying they miss the radio show, but what’s done is done, and I’m not going to cry over spilled milk. I really had three great years on radio, we did something unique in our own way, and we were doing really well, and I think people will remember the radio show fondly.”
There’s no resting on laurels for this Navan live-wire, however. Between the newfound lie-ins, the cooking and the homework, the Navan live-wire is busy working on a host of projects, and one of his latest hit the TV screens this month. ‘Hector Goes’ sees him immersed in all aspects of Irish life, from fishing and turf-cutting to the most Irish of them all, the GAA.
The show has paired Hector’s love of the country, its inhabitants and its traditions with his inquisitive nature, bringing a unique insight into different communities and cultures from around Ireland.
The next episode, ‘Hector goes GAA’ sees him travel the length and breadth of the country to learn what it is that’s so special about this amateur organisation and the people that live and breathe it. From the pinnacle of All Ireland day in Croke Park right down to the grassroots clubs, Hector says GAA is something that is in every parish, club and family in Ireland. As part of the episode, he stopped off in Ballinrobe to catch up with Mayo footballer Donal Vaughan.
Hector is very familiar with the town, as he has many friends there. One of his fondest memories of Ballinrobe is a day back in 2002, at the ‘picturesque’ racecourse. He was filming ‘Only Fools Buy Horses’, and he got to watch his horse Traverse win for the first time.
For this visit, Hector met with Donal to talk all things GAA and ask the footballer what it’s like juggling GAA with his day job running the family shoe shop.
“Where can you see somebody playing in front of 80,000 people and then a couple of days later you can ask him to get a pair of shoes?” Hector asks, loving the idea. “This is the difference between our sports stars and our legendary GAA stars … you can’t go and hang out with Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard.”
Hector described as a ‘beautiful thing’ the fact that the children of Ballinrobe can see Donal Vaughan every day of the week as a normal person, and see that GAA stars aren’t treated like ‘VIP superstars’. They go back to their day jobs like everyone else. “There’s no sporting organisation like it in the world,” he says.
In a ‘revealing’ interview, the two men talk brass tacks. They talk about how Ballinrobe has never won a senior county title or an All Ireland, and discuss the difference is between playing for club and playing for county.
“When you grow up with people and go to school with them and the disco with them, and you laugh with them and cry with them, and you’re flesh and blood in that parish, it’s a totally different buzz playing with your club,” says Hector.
He points to the pride and happiness that Castlebar Mitchels brought to the people of their parish when they recently reached the All Ireland Club Championship final. “Half of Castlebar went with them. It was a step too far for the team, but there’s no shame in that – they’re Connacht champions and went on an amazing journey, and they brought every man, woman and child with them on that journey. They’ve made everyone happy in that parish.”
Maigh Eo Abú
Mayo also features in two other episodes in the series, and the presenter is effusive about the county, saying he loves its ‘picturesque beauty’ and ‘the wit and humour of the people’.
With the all passion of a Mayo man, he says: “If Mayo win an All Ireland, or when they win an All Ireland, there should be a pilgrimage. They should bring Sam Maguire to the top of Croagh Patrick for Mass.” No doubt the ever-effervescent Hector would happily bob along beside them, taking as much pleasure out of the scene as the county’s most ardent supporter.