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Expert: Grainne McElwain relishing new challenge on 'Inside The Game'

Monaghan presenter is set to take over All-Ireland duty from Rachel Wyse during maternity leave

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Brave leap: Ex secondary school teacher Grainne McElwain left her full-time, pensionable job to follow her dream of working in sport

Brave leap: Ex secondary school teacher Grainne McElwain left her full-time, pensionable job to follow her dream of working in sport

Brave leap: Ex secondary school teacher Grainne McElwain left her full-time, pensionable job to follow her dream of working in sport

Brave leap: Ex secondary school teacher Grainne McElwain left her full-time, pensionable job to follow her dream of working in sport

Rachel Wyse

Rachel Wyse

Fergal Phillips

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Brave leap: Ex secondary school teacher Grainne McElwain left her full-time, pensionable job to follow her dream of working in sport

Presenter Grainne McElwain is set to become the face of Sky Sports GAA coverage this year.

The Monaghan-born star has been a familiar presence at Gaelic games across the full spectrum of channels in Ireland for the past 15 years, with pitch-side analysis for RTE’s Sunday Game, the BBC and TG4.

The former secondary school teacher will take over presenting duties from Rachel Wyse – who will be on maternity leave for the rest of the year – while also co-hosting Sky’s GAA discussion show, Inside The Game.

She is excited to be presiding over a December All-Ireland final later this year in what will be a history-making season.

“You couldn’t have even thought this would happen in March, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “You can see how much GAA means to people and how much they missed it.”

Grainne will be stepping into the shoes of Rachel Wyse while presenting Sky’s coverage in the studio with the panel of experts, featuring playing greats like Jamesie O’Connor and Peter Canavan

Magical

“It’s just for the season. Rachel is on maternity leave and I wish herself and her husband every good wish. It’s a magical time having a baby.

“I’m thrilled to be involved with Sky Sports. They are very passionate about GAA.

“For me it’s always pinch-me stuff every time I go on to a pitch and do that job.”

Growing up in Ireland there was little or no female role models on the small screen, so Grainne looked across the water to the likes of Sue Barker and Clare Balding.

“Wimbledon would have been the thing with Sue Barker or later on Clare Balding or Gabby Logan. It would have been abroad.

“I have been told Liz Howard, who was the camogie president, was the first female in Ireland that was presenting.

“In Ireland we were a bit slower to get females involved in sport but now there are so many female presenters which is fantastic.

“It’s great to see more women involved in it because women have massive opinions and know their sport, and I think there was just a tendency before, (that) women don’t know what they are talking about

“That attitude has changed totally, women are accepted as positive female role models speaking about sport. It’s hugely important to me.

“It shows young girls and young boys that it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, you can be involved in sport either playing or talking about it, being on the television – those opportunities exist for everybody across the board.”

The presenter lives in the Connemara Gaeltacht with her husband and three children – Ava (eight), Ferdia (seven) and Eoin (five) – and Irish is her first language at home.

During her stint alongside GAA commentating icon Marty Morrisey for his show, The Marty Squad, his joy in Gaelic games was infectious. “Marty is a total gentleman. What I found with Marty is just enjoy it. It’s his whole philosophy, you can see from his personality how much he loves being involved in it.

“We’re in such a privileged position being at these games and being allowed to access areas and interview managers and players.

“In Croke Park at All-Ireland finals you can see the joy of players coming off after they’ve won a game and the utter devastation of players after they’ve lost.

“I always think that just to be standing there and to witness it is thrilling and such an honour.”

Like Marty, Grainne left a permanent, pensionable job as a secondary school teacher to follow her passion for sports.

College

“I had hosted a sports show for my local radio station, Northern Sound, when I was at college.

“I saw an ad for a sports researcher down in Ring in Waterford and I got the job,

“I left my full-time pensionable job as a teacher at 25 in Dublin and started working in sports and absolutely loved it.

“I have worked for TG4, the BBC, Eir sports, RTE , Sky Sports.

“For me one of my big phrases was ‘leap and the net will appear’. I never wanted to be someone who would look back and regret things I haven’t done.”

After years of being behind the microphone at high-octane games like All-Ireland finals, she has learned to steel her own nerves.

“I think there is a balance, in the beginning when I started out the nerves would just totally overwhelm you, it was terrifying but now I can control the nerves and it’s more like a nervous energy.

“But again I think it’s not about me.”

She will co-host Sky Sports new magazine show, Inside The Game, with Brian Carney and Mike Finnerty on alternating weeks.

The first episode will feature Kieran Donaghy and Peter Canavan looking forward to the 2020 All-Ireland Championship while on alternating weeks, hurling will take centre stage with JJ Delaney, Jamesie O’Connor and Ollie Canning. “Who doesn’t love listening to Peter Canavan and Jamesie O’Connor?” says Grainne.

She believes Sky Sports bring their own brand of forensic sports analysis to the national sports.

“(Sky) have definitely their own brand and a healthy competition to the GAA sports broadcasting landscape.

“When they came into the market people were really excited because they’ve seen what they have done for Premier League and other sports.

“If you look at the technology they use like the Sky Pad, the analysis is amazing.

“They bring the games to a bigger audience, an audience in England who are interested in the game. I think it has been great in promoting it.”

Inside The Game will air on Sky Sports Arena from Wednesday August 19. The GAA All-Ireland Senior Championship starts on Saturday October 24.