Back for more — Gemma’ marks decade at helm of Seo Spoirt

It is certainly a great achievement for any television show to be still on air after a 10 year run, and that is the milestone being marked by Seo Spoirt on TG4 this season. Galway based presenter Gemma Ní Chionnaith has been at the helm of the weekly sports programme since its inception, and along with co-presenter, Kerry footballing legend Dara Ó Cinnéide, is thrilled to have returned to our screens for the live Friday night show.

Inverin native Gemma has built up a wealth of TV and radio experience since completing a post grad in media following an arts degree at NUIG in 2003. She began her career at Raidió na Gaeltachta presenting a live music show, Géill Slí and it was certainly a full on introduction to radio, broadcasting five nights a week. It is a time which the presenter remembers fondly. “I stayed there for five years and received a national award for Radio Personality of the Year. It was also during this period with RnG that I first dipped my toe into sports broadcasting. I would travel to club matches around the county and report live most weekends and I realised that I really enjoyed it.”

It was inevitable that Gemma would become attracted to the world of sports broadcasting as it was something that was always a part of her life. “Sport was something I grew up with – our local GAA club was literally at the bottom of our garden and that’s where we spent our days as kids.”

The experience of live reporting with RNG soon drew the attention of TG4 executives, who offered an audition for her dream role. “One day I received a phone-call out of the blue. TG4 told me they were getting ready to launch a brand new sports show and they were looking for a co-presenter at the time. I went through the interview process and thankfully, I was offered the position. I was delighted. Looking back now, it is hard to believe that was nine years ago – it’s phenomenal how quickly the time has gone.”

Seó Spóirt has certainly been an overwhelming success and has become an integral part of TG4’s sports schedule, broadcasting annually from spring to autumn. Gemma attributes this to the talented team involved in the show’s production. “We are a tight knit team. The people working on the programme have not changed a whole lot from those that started out a decade ago. I think we have all improved and evolved in our roles over that time and the show has benefited as a result. I’d hate to see some of my first interviews now!”

During her decade on screen, Gemma has interviewed some of the top GAA and rugby stars in the country. She says it has been a unforgettable experience. “I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and interview some amazing people – players and managers who are the heroes of little boys and little girls the length and breadth of the country.”

It is clear she has a real passion for the GAA and something else which has left its mark is the buzz of Croker - be it a match day or not. “It’s hard to put it into words. It’s one thing to experience Croke Park on matchday or All-Ireland Final day, the atmosphere is unreal, but it’s an entirely different experience to be there on your own. How many people get to do that? How many people get to walk around that stadium when it’s empty and have it all to themselves? It’s the most awesome place to be.”

Along with juggling her presenting work, Gemma has taken to student life once again, and has returned to her Alma Mater to study psychology. Having completed her stint with RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, she opened her own business which led to the interest in psychology. “Myself and my mother set up the franchise for Motivation Weight Management in Galway and ran the business for five years. We were blessed with a wonderful staff and lovely clients. It was so rewarding and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s funny how things work out. We had always intended to dedicate five years to the business and then look at a new project. We had no real plan to sell Motivation, but an offer came in almost five years to the day and we felt that the time was right. When you put your heart and soul into something like Motivation, I think you have to accept that you can only do it for so long. It takes over your life and you can only maintain that for a certain amount of time.”

Student life is a little less glamorous than the presenter’s role on our screens on a Friday evening but she is immensely enjoying the challenge. “It is definitely a little strange to be back in university again. It’s really intense and demanding but it makes it so much easier when you are interested in what you are doing. I have turned into one of those nerdy students down the front of the lecture hall asking loads of annoying questions!”

As to what the future holds, she says she is content with her lot, and if things continued in the same direction there would be no complaints. “I’m really happy to be juggling Seó Spóirt and college at the minute. I’ve had such a varied path up until this point, who knows what lies ahead? I think that if you’re enjoying what you’re doing day by day, it won’t lead you too far wrong.”

+Seó Spóirt airs on Fridays at 9.30pm and there is a repeat of the show on Saturday morning at 12.25pm

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