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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 25 October, 2014

Cream of the crop: here are our 12 favourite sports podcasts

Bored this Bank Holiday Monday? Check out our comprehensive list of essential listening on the net to brighten up your day.

John Giles gives his opinions on the beautiful game as part of a weekly podcast on Newstalk.
John Giles gives his opinions on the beautiful game as part of a weekly podcast on Newstalk.

1. Football weekly

To say Football Weekly is well worth a listen is akin to saying that The Beatles were a really good band. Nonetheless, no list of the best sports podcasts would be complete without Jimbo and co. The perennially witty host is normally joined by an array of high-calibre guests, with the show’s mixture of easy-going banter and well-informed opinion invariably proving a thoroughly entertaining listen.

Sample quote – After Fabio Capello’s sacking: “They’ve got all the excuses they could ever need when it goes tits up in June.”

2. Football with John Giles

The Leeds United and Ireland legend is the weekly guest on Newstalk’s Off the Ball show, as he offers his opinion of the week’s key events in the sport. Giles tends to be quite old-fashioned in his outlook on the game, often disapproving of such concepts as statistics or tactics, generally believing them to be little more than unnecessary complications to the beautiful game. However, whether you agree with him or not, the consistency and persuasive manner of his arguments makes for frequently compelling listening.

Sample quote – Giles on Rooney: “Wayne Rooney is the best central midfielder in the Premier League by far.”

3. The Football Ramble

Very much a podcast by fans for fans, unlike many of the entries on this list, The Football Ramble is an independent sports podcast, which has achieved its success largely through word of mouth. Moreover, it has won no less than four People’s Choice awards and often outranks more established shows, such as Football Weekly, on the iTunes playlist. And while the guests may not always have the depth of knowledge of more eminent sports journalists, with a line-up that features a stand-up comedian and a man who does the voiceovers for Kerry Katona-starring shows, it’s bound to be alternative in every sense of the word.

Sample quote – On Roman Abramovich: “He’s a clown with a yacht.”

4. Fighting Talk

Having begun airing in 2003, the Sony Radio Academy Award-winning show has since firmly established itself as one of the top sports podcasts out there. Hosted by the likeable Colin Murray (who took over from Christian O’Connell), the show provides an eclectic brand of insight and knowledge – so much so that it includes a section called ‘Any Other Business’, where the guests are encouraged to talk about any topic, irrespective of its relevance to sport. This approach, coupled with the inimitable mannerisms of certain guests, make the show worth listening to, for its participants pure love of randomness alone.

Sample quote – A topic on ‘Defending the Indefensible’: “I believe the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race should take place in Iranian territorial waters.”

5. 6-0-6

(Danny Baker has been of 6-0-6′s numerous hosts over the years – Yui Mok/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

A football phone-in show cum podcast, 6-0-6 is by far the oldest entry on this list, and yet its popularity endures. Why? Perhaps it’s the passion with which the callers regularly provide. Perhaps it’s the plethora of eccentric presenters that have hosted the show over the years (including Danny Baker, David Mellor and Alan Green). Perhaps it’s the unintentional hilarity provided by the awkward interaction between the hosts and the fans. But probably, most of all, it’s the sheer therapeutic value it offers when your team loses, as you realise there are many fans out there similarly disgusted by [insert team of choice here]’s performance.

Sample quote – Alan Green on the fourth official: “He’s a traffic warden.”

6. The BS Report

Having experienced in the region of 10 million downloads in one month alone, the numbers simply speak for themselves as far as The BS Report is concerned. Moreover, not many podcasts have their theme tune written by a world-renowned composer (Ronald Jenkees). In addition, it is hosted by Bill Simmons, and one of the keys to its success is Simmons himself, who is comfortable discussing a wide range of topics, and so it will often feature guests from the entertainment world too. And ultimately, the show’s approach is encapsulated by its introductory voiceover, which describes it as “a free-wheeling conversation that occasionally touches on mature subjects”.

Sample quote – Bill Simmons on the show’s success: “By the time radio guests are getting warmed up, the segment’s over. With this, you’re really having a conversation with somebody.”

7. Phedippidations

Phedippidations very much does what it says on the tin. It is, as the site’s banner proclaims, a podcast for and about runners. And the fact that it is hosted by Steve Runner – an actual distance runner – gives it a sense of authenticity that many sports podcasts lack. Moreover, while it may sound very niche, its acquisition of a Best Sports Podcast Award at the Podcast Awards emphasises its potential to also appeal to a broader, more mainstream audience. It consistently presents an intelligent and even intellectual (it features quotes from obscure novelists and philosophers) discussion on running, making it one of the most original and idiosyncratic podcasts out there.

Sample quote – Quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune used in a recent episode on the topic of fear: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”

8. ESPN Scrum Podcast

Hosted by Jonathan Harris-Bass, the ESPN Scrum Podcast is a comprehensive weekly round-up of events in rugby. The numerous high-profile guests frequently give interesting insights into the game and the show invariably runs as smoothly as a well-drilled Munster scrum. The passion for the sport is generally in abundance, meaning it is probably the best rugby podcast out there.

Sample quote – Tom Hamilton on Tom Croft’s recent try against France: “I’m struggling to think of another flanker in the world who could have scored a try like that.”

9. The ESPN America Podcast

(The ESPN America Podcast focuses mainly on North American sports – AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

A bit like the American equivalent of Off the Ball, anyone looking to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of American sport would be best advised to check out the ESPN America Podcast, which takes an interest in a wide variety of sports, but primarily focuses on NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB. While it’s not quite as regularly produced as most podcasts, generally only being put up on a monthly basis, the quality over quantity law applies, and it generally lasts in the region of an hour.

Sample quote - Linda Cohn on the New York Giants’ Super Bowl success: “The last two have been magical because of Eli Manning and because of players that, three quarters of the way through the season, you really weren’t sure if they believed it was possible.”

10. The Game

Essentially, The Times’ equivalent to Football Weekly. While it may not be as reputed as The Guardian’s podcast, it is by no means inferior. One of its strengths is host Gabriele Marcotti – an esteemed football journalist who has written for a number of publications, including Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal and Il Corriere dello Sport. Moreover, its contributors usually possess a vast knowledge of the game (no pun intended) and represent an antidote to the majority of compulsively bland football pundits. And unlike the newspaper with which it is associated, it can be consumed for free.

Sample quote – Rory Smith on why England should appoint Roy Hodgson as their new manager: “From England’s position, it makes sense – he’s got a proven track record with minor nations.”

11. Golf Smarter

With 324 episodes and counting produced since 2005, as well as being the top-rated golf podcast on the iTunes playlist, Golf Smarter represents an anomaly, given the general dearth of truly high-quality podcasts associated with the sport that are currently available. And furthermore, unlike most sports podcasts, it is as useful to players of the game as it is to fans, given that it provides tips on how to improve your own golf game, with the tagline: “Sharing tips and insight from golfers and golf professionals to help lower your score – it’s worked for your host, Fred Greene.”

Sample quote – Golf Course Architect Tripp Davis on the success of his recently built course, The Tribute: “The concept that we thought up was to build holes that were in the style of some of my favourite holes in Scotland.”

12. Total Rugby Podcast

While the brains behind this show exhibit a good knowledge of the sport in general and dedicate a fair portion of their coverage to international issues, it also excels in providing niche coverage. Women’s rugby, for example, is analysed with a level of intelligence that is seldom evident in other rugby-related podcasts. Moreover, with a refreshingly eclectic variety of guests (from Shane Williams to Fourie du Preez), the Total Rugby Podcast is well worth a listen for a slightly alternative perspective on the sport.

Sample quote – England’s Emily Scarratt on their World Cup Final heartache: “I think we knew that we’d prepared well enough to win the World Cup.”

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments section below.

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