UL JOURNALISM’S 2023 SPORTS INSIGHTS SERIES CONTINUED THIS WEEK AS ‘OFF THE BALL’S’ TOMMY ROONEY GAVE JOURNALISM STUDENTS VALUABLE ADVICE AND A UNIQUE INSIGHT INTO HIS CAREER AS A JOURNALIST.
You may know Tommy Rooney as one of the leading sports journalists in the country, hosting one of the country’s most beloved podcasts ‘The Football Pod’ with former players Paddy Andrews and James O’ Donoghue.
The Meath man, currently based in Clare, gave students a behind the scenes account of his life as a journalist, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing as Rooney himself would admit.
From hitchhiking to Wicklow to cover a football match to getting his foot in the door at Off the Ball, it has been a road of ups and downs, but it’s something that he wouldn’t change considering the experiences it has given him.
Having graduated from DCU in 2013, a young Rooney was eager to go straight into the world of journalism. He got a job ‘almost straight away’ and attributes this to the portfolio he had been building up at the time.
Speaking at UL, Rooney said: “The reason I got a job straight away was because in my first and second year of college I started to immediately build my portfolio and that’s a huge thing, doing the time,
“There’s just no way around it, you’ve got to practice something to be really good at it, especially in something like journalism when you’re putting your work out there for people to critique and criticise it” he added.
All the work and time Rooney was putting into his passion at college and at home seemed to have paid off when he received a direct message on Instagram from Joe Molloy, who was recently voted as Sports Broadcaster of the Year, offering him a week’s work experience at Off the Ball.
“I’ll never forget the day I got the DM (Direct Message); I was sitting at the computer above in Meath writing articles and I got back to him 10 seconds later saying, ‘Yes one hundred percent, I’d love to’ and he then didn’t get back to me for about six weeks,
“I was looking at my laptop every single day, but I eventually got my foot in the door, and I’ve never left.”
Ten years have passed and Rooney has never looked back, progressively climbing the ‘Off the Ball’ ladder to reach his newest height as senior producer for the ever-growing media organisation.
His most popular venture with Off the Ball would be ‘The Football Pod’, which is a podcast featuring ex-intercounty footballers Paddy Andrews and James O’Donoghue. The show is set to return for a fourth season, but it was the final edition of last season that Rooney spoke fondly about during his talk.
The footage was recorded live from Croke Park after the 2023 All-Ireland football final, which featured an emotional Paddy Andrews looking out onto the pitch as his former Dublin team-mates reclaimed the Sam Maguire Cup from rivals Kerry.
Former Kerry player James O’Donoghue was also present, watching on as his former teammates were on their haunches having lost their title as All-Ireland champions.
It made for a brilliant piece of visual journalism, seeing a whole host of different emotions being displayed by the two former players.
Being brave and willing to cross the odd line here and there is something that was highlighted by the Meath native regularly, as he believes it is a trait that all journalists must have.
“It’s just a case of putting yourself out there, figuring out what you’re good at and just chasing that down and being relentless about it and backing yourself,
“Being ready to take your opportunity is something I’m very passionate about and just to put that work in, there’s nothing that can replicate it,
“Do your time, back yourself, take chances and enjoy the journey”- Rooney’s parting advice for any aspiring journalists.