Sportstalk.ie interview rising Bein Sports Presenter Kevin Egan on his journey from RTE to FOX Sports to living in Miami working for Bein Sports, rubbing shoulders with some of the soccer greats and discussing Gaelic, Hurling, Robbie Keane and McGregor.
- Kevin tell us about your journey from Dublin to America and becoming a football presenter and commentator over there?
Well when I was a young child, I used to look at Michael Lyster presenting RTE’s GAA coverage and think ‘that’s the best job in the world!’ I loved GAA, and always had a huge interest in television sports, so that’s the road I took in college. In first year college I got my first big break in the industry – making tea and coffee for RTE Sport during the 2004 Olympics. To say I loved every second of that experience as a ‘runner’ would be a massive understatement. It thought me so much. From ‘runner’ I got a chance at ‘researcher’, ‘sub-editor’ and ‘reporter’, but I always knew that climbing that RTE Sport ladder was going to be incredibly difficult, so I decided to go to America (my Ma’s home city of Chicago) and pursue a TV Sports job there.
It was so much harder than I could have ever imagined. I quickly realized that I knew nothing about American sports, and they didn’t care to know how the Dubs were looking ahead of the summer! Luckily, a couple of people at a FOX College Sports station took a chance on me as a Graphics Producer on American Football. What were they thinking?! Somehow, I didn’t get fired, and eventually they agreed to let me start an online college soccer show during my spare time. Unpaid, and little assistance, but I was delighted, as this was a huge chance to improve and practice using the very best facilities, in a top class studio.
The little online show led to everything else since; presenter and commentator for the Chicago Fire in MLS, host at 120 Sports and ESPN Radio, and then last year I got offered a presenter / commentator job for BeIN Sports in Miami, so my wife and I said goodbye to everyone after our wedding, packed up and drove to the tropics of South Florida!
- You were extremely popular in Chicago with the Fire.. was it disappointing to leave?
Absolutely. Chicago is my US ‘home’, it’s where my wife is from, and I loved my different roles there, particularly with the Chicago Fire. Through being a commentator for the Fire, I spent time in places like LA, New York, Salt Lake City, Portland, Montreal and Toronto. It was a dream job in so many ways, working with a class group of people. The only down side of my time with the club was the results! The city, the fanbase, the match days – all amazing memories.
- So how’s BeIN Sports going? What are you doing there?
BeIN Sports is phenomenal. From presenting shows with Ruud Gullit, Christian Vieri and Patrick Kluivert as analysts, to reporting from the sideline of the Camp Nou for ‘El Clasico’ in April, it’s just been an incredible experience. Those are highlights, and on a day-to-day basis now I present a nightly primetime show called ‘The Xtra’, covering football from all over Europe, to here in the US as well. We’re in the toughest sports market in the world, but we’ve got great properties, with the likes of La Liga, Serie A, World Cup Qualifiers etc, and we’ve also expanded by taking on College Sports, Moto GP, Six Nations and many others. BeIN Media is rapidly growing all over the world, and our presence is huge in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, France, Spain and Australia. It’s exciting to be part of such a huge global network.
Life is great here. Miami is a different world, but we’re certainly embracing it and loving every second. My contract with BeIN is three years, so it’s wonderful knowing we’ll be here for at least two more years.
All Ireland Finals
- A proud Dublin man, you made the trip home for the final last week. How was that?
Definitely the weirdest game I’ve seen in a while, and certainly not what I expected, but that’s the beauty of sport. I landed at Dublin airport at 1:50pm, after being in Italy for a week, and it was a mad dash to Croker. I was there with my Dad, who was on the Dubs panel in the 70s, and he didn’t hesitate in reminding me that they were the last group to win back-to-back All-Ireland titles.
- Compared to all the other sporting events you have covered, how does the All Ireland Finals Match Up?
You can’t beat the All-Ireland Final. I flew back in 2011, and stood in the Cusack Stand with a perfect view of Cluxton’s free. I cried tears of absolute delight along with every other Dub when that final whistle blew. That was an epic final that meant so much, but I’d want to be there even if the Dubs weren’t part of it. Just look at the Hurling final a few weeks ago. The colour, the traveling fans, the friendly craic, the rivalry, the singing, the nerves, the excitement and then the tremendous talent on show that culminates in sporting theatre like no other. All-Ireland Sunday, whether Hurling or Football is unbeatable.
- Kilkenny dethroned by a Tipperary masterclass did you get to watch the game?
I did watch it, and it offered me a friendly reminder of just how good our sport is. On weekends I’m used to covering La Liga, Serie A etc, so I’d miss a lot of the championship. What a match this was! A good friend of mine in Miami, Richie Ryan, is from Templetuohy, just outside of Thurles. His day job is playing for Allesandro Nesta and Miami FC, but on that day it was all about Tipp!
- Can you see Mayo getting over their curse in the replay?
No. Honestly, I think they missed the boat last week. Dublin played as poorly as I’ve seen in a few years; sloppy, pedestrian football. Under the guidance of Jim Gavin I don’t expect we’ll see that again. As for Mayo, I was really impressed with their fight and tenacity, but when you see some of the rushed shots they took on, like Aidan O’Shea toward the end, as well as some of their easier chances they squandered, it made me reflect a little more seriously on Joe Brolly’s Sunday Indo column! In saying all that, O’Connor’s brilliantly taken point gives them a chance to prove us all wrong.
- You lived in Chicago for a few years a place with a fair amount of Mayo ex Pats and no doubt formed bonds with a few, is there many making the trip for the final?
They always do! The thing about Mayo people is this; they’re as passionate as you’ll find, and they don’t want to be the ones that missed ‘the day’ when they finally reclaim Sam. That’s why they’ll always travel, and from my experience in 2011, it’s worth it! Two of my good Chicago friends, Gerard Doherty and Alan Coyle deserve that success. They’re as Mayo as you could find, and I’ve never met two people at their age that give so much to the GAA, both at home and in Chicago. I’d love to be there to buy them a pint the day Mayo do it.
- Do you educate your Bien Sports colleagues on GAA?
All the time, although I’m not sure they care!
All Ireland Final Replay Analysis
- How do you see Mayo approaching the game vs Dublin?
Mayo have to bring that same level of aggression to the replay, but they must show an aggressive and ruthless streak further forward as well. Little to lose given recent history, but a lifetime in the making if they can be the ones to finally do it.
- How do you see Dublin approaching the game vs Mayo?
Dublin will be a lot quicker, in every aspect. I was shocked at how labored they looked, and the limited options there were going forward. I also expect Gavin will try and find other ways to get Connolly more involved.
- Who are the 3 Mayo players you think need to have a massive influence on the game
Keith Higgins was a warrior last week, and he’ll need to be again. Aidan O’Shea needs to show that he can be a big time player at the biggest stage. We’ve yet to see it. And I also think Andy Moran has a massive game in him. He reads the game so well, and Dublin fans will remember his goal that turned the semi-final in 2006. It was actually his first ever Championship goal, and the first goal Dublin conceded that campaign, but it was a dagger. He’s still dangerous.
- Who are the 3 Dublin players you think need to have a massive influence on the game
I think Cian O’Sullivan’s role can often go understated. He needs to set the tempo and be that general from centerback. Brian Fenton is a clubmate of mine from Raheny, and everyone is so proud of him, and knowing Brian he’ll be ready to show another mature performance from the middle. My prediction is he puts himself in a position to make up for the goal chances he missed last week, and he won’t miss again! Finally Diarmuid Connolly has to be more involved. But I’d like to think the officials won’t fall for what we’ve seen a lot of this year, where the opposition kick and punch lumps out of him, until he finally responds, and he also gets a yellow. Umpires, keep your eyes open 😉
- Conor McGregor a fellow Dub and Irishman is having plenty of success currently in America fighting for the UFC, do you follow Conor?
Of course! It’s hard not to. Love him or hate him, his approach means you have to watch. McGregor is an incredible athlete, at the very top of his game, with a brilliant training staff and marketing team. I love seeing him doing well, as I love seeing all Irish men and women doing well abroad. There’s something about us Irish here in North American, and I suppose everywhere in the world, that we’re proud of each other, we look out for each other and we want to see our own succeed. The pride we have for our country is infectious, and I often find people from other nationalities latch on to it and support the Irish because of it.
- Conor’s now an Ambassador for Ireland on the international stage, how do the American public view Conor McGregor?
I think it’s 50/50. The reality is this; UFC is huge here in America, and there’s no American that even comes close to Conor in terms of dollars, publicity and media attention. He’s great for the sport, and I think deep down they all respect him for that.
- Robbie Keane recently retired from International Football, Do you think Ireland will miss him?
If Ireland miss a 36 year old Robbie Keane we’ve got a problem. Of course we’ll miss that sensation when he scores, and the impact he had, but his time has come. Robbie has had a sensational international career, and I still get chills thinking about the Germany match in ’02 or his finish in Paris in ’09, but at 36 it’s time to step aside. Robbie is one of those cases where we’ll only realize how good we had it with him later in life. Aside from his 68 international goals, the guy always represented us with everything we could have asked for, and for that we will be eternally grateful.
- Robbie is well settled now in LA Galaxy and one of their top players, how do the American public view Robbie?
This may sound crazy, but I think Robbie is the single greatest foreign signing is US Soccer history. We’ve seen the likes of Pele and Cruyff play in North America, as well as more recently Beckham, Pirlo, Gerrad, Drogba and more, but none have been more successful than Keane. It’s not just the goals and championships, it’s the mentality and passion that he’s brought to LA. He’s been a phenomenal signing, and I think most Americans would agree with me that he’s #1.
Finally three Questions.
Do you ever see GAA on Bein Sports broadcast to America?
Why not? Wouldn’t that be great for us! If BeIN or another broadcaster decided to do it, I’d do everything in my power to try and get that role.
What’s you pre match haunt “bar” you go to for a few before the final?
I’ll drink Guinness after the Guinness after the match, but I don’t want to beforehand. I’m not sure what it is. I’d rather have a tea and sandwich at home whilst chatting with my family about the match, and then go to Gaffneys, Harry Byrnes and maybe Raheny GAA Club after the match.
Who’s your favourite Dublin player?
Right now? It has to be Brian Fenton. As a kid it was always Paul Curran and then later on Ciaran Whelan, but when I practiced frees I’d pretend I was Charlie Redmond! Lick the fingers, three steps to the left, and then pop it over the bar! If only it was that easy!