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"We're not going to try and be George - we're not going to go on air and, kind of ... rant"

Chris Donoghue and Sarah McInerney on taking over George Hook’s Newstalk slot.

28/06/2016. Newstalk 106-108 FM prime time Autumn Chris Donoghue and Sarah McInerney in the roof garden at Communicorp HQ today. Source: Leah Farrell

CHRIS DONOGHUE AND SARAH McInerney insist they won’t be trying to replace anybody.

That said, they clearly have some big shoes to fill.

The longtime Newstalk Breakfast host and current Sunday Times political correspondent were announced as the new hosts of the Drivetime slot on the national news broadcaster this morning.

George Hook, shelving those on-again-off-again retirement plans for at least another year, will move into the midday to 2pm slot.

A whole new team, including the likes of TV3 anchor Colette Fitzpatrick and former rugby star Alan Quinlan, will take over at breakfast. Former Fine Gael minister Ivan Yates, who has presented with Donoghue at daybreak for years, will part company with the Denis O’Brien-owned station at the end of the week, and plans to go travelling with his wife.

‘The last of the original pieces’

The Right Hook, which will be mothballed from September (Hook’s new show will simply be called ‘Lunchtime with …’) has been one of Newstalk’s flagship programmes since the station’s launch, back in 2002.

No surprise then that Donoghue is finding the move a little daunting.

“This was the last piece of Newstalk since its foundation,” the presenter told TheJournal.ie at the launch of the new lineup this afternoon.

It’s served Newstalk so well, and it’s paid the bills for 14 years, so there’s a bit of scariness around that as well – replacing the last of the original pieces.

As to what listeners can expect?

“It has to be a completely different dynamic,” says Donoghue.

McInerney agrees. The political reporter says she’s looking forward to addressing an array of topics during the new-look programme’s run.

She won’t be trying to become the ‘New Ivan Yates’ either…

“Well, I’ve better hair for a start,” she laughs.

Look, I’m not trying to replace anybody. I think myself and Chris will have a completely different dynamic obviously than Ivan and Chris. And that’s something we’ll be working on – I just think it’s going to be something very different.

Brand new drive

The new show, set to launch in September and titled ‘Newstalk Drive’, will run from 4pm to 7 each weekday.

Tom Dunne, who also helms the 10pm to midnight weekday slot, will be an occasional contributor and Henry McKean, the station’s roving reporter, will be on every day (he’s been a regular on Sean Moncrieff’s afternoon show until now).

“Personally I prefer presenting with someone else, talking to them,” says Donoghue.

I prefer having a real person there, because I kind of think that’s actually what life is like. There is a voyeurism in radio – I like listening in to a conversation and being part of that, so I’m delighted that it’s a co-present and I’m delighted that it’s with Sarah.

Women on air 

Alongside Fitzpatrick (above) who will be part of the roster on the revamped breakfast show, McInerney will be the second woman in a prime time presenting slot on the station, from this autumn.

Newstalk has been criticised for a lack of representation of women in the past (a DCU-helmed study last year found 82% of voices on air were male) – but the Sunday Times journalist says she didn’t give major consideration to that fact before deciding to take up her new job.

“I don’t see myself as a woman in the media, I see myself as a person working in the media and I always have done.

I think it’s great that there are going to be two women as anchors on prime time radio shows on Newstalk – but I don’t really see it as a woman thing. I just see it as a person thing.

Donoghue agrees:

Newstalk didn’t come to me and say ‘we’re looking for a female co-host for you for Drivetime’. They came and said ‘we’re looking for a strong Drivetime co-host – the two of you together’.

Longtime fans of Hook, meanwhile, can expect something of a departure from the veteran presenter’s style, he maintains:

“I don’t agree with George on everything George believes – but I have complete respect for what he’s managed to carve out as a broadcaster.  You could never ever accuse George of being bland or boring or passive – so it’s going to be different without a doubt.

We’re not going to try and be George – we’re not going to go on air and, kind of … rant.

The presenter’s chalk-and-cheddar partnership with the occasionally cantankerous Yates – “he pretends to be difficult – he’s not,” Donoghue says – will come to an end this Friday.

And while both journalists say they’re looking forward to the challenge of the Drivetime show, “George has a massive market share,” Donoghue adds. “This is going to be a lot of work.”

Read: Ivan Yates is leaving Newstalk >

Read: Chris Donoghue is taking over George Hook’s slot on Newstalk >

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