Mourning Marty

Having Marty Whelan presenting the breakfast show on 2fm signalled "the death knell for youth radio on a national basis in this country... For the flagship programme on a station aimed at 15- to 34-year-olds to be fronted by the former presenter of Open House defies belief. Marty is an excellent presenter and I have no doubt he will pull in a large audience, but they won't be in the station's target market." So said one of the station's rivals.

This guy is right – it was a big mistake to put Marty Whelan in the morning slot on 2fm. Middle-aged, unfashionable, and with a track record that includes presenting afternoon TV for the blue-rinse brigade and a stint hosting the Rose Of Tralee, Marty Whelan is as out of place as a fish in a handbag. And it's not as if the station, which is supposed to be for young Irish people, didn't have enough tired old men as it was: Gerry Ryan and Dave Fanning, probably 2fm's best-known broadcasters, have been in their jobs literally for decades.

To Marty Whelan's credit, you cannot fault him for lack of effort. He gibbers like an enthusiastic monkey, trying to keep up with the fast pace set by a radio station aimed at people with no attention span. He changes accents quicker than an international conman, cracks dead-end jokes every 30 seconds, and practically sings out the weather forecast. An attempt at banter with the newsreader on 24 February was a complete failure: she reacted like she was stuck in a room with a dangerous animal.

When the music comes on, the listener breathes a sigh of relief. It's like having to watch your father enter a roller-blading competition and seeing him fall hard on his backside every time he tries to move. And yet for all the buffoonery, Marty Whelan comes across on Marty In The Morning as a very likeable man who is doing his best in an impossible situation.

The most puzzling aspect of the debacle is that Marty Whelan was so popular in his previous job as co-host of the RTÉ afternoon show Open House. When news broke that Open House was being axed, there was a tabloid campaign to save it, and Liveline was dominated by fans lamenting its loss. Surely he should have been at least allowed to continue broadcasting to an audience which appreciates him. He is nothing but a laughing stock on 2fm.

A few years ago, the RTÉ Guide did an interview with Marty Whelan. It featured pictures of the presenter dressed in a cream suit posing beside a moped. In one shot, the material in his trousers had arranged itself in just such a way that it looked like he was having a very vigorous erection. Somebody, you imagine, must have noticed before the RTÉ Guide went to print, but left it in for the laugh.

Now, the people in charge of 2fm are making a fool of him again, but the joke is ultimately on them: the station lost 84,000 listeners in 2005, and their confusing collection of ageing, out-of-place presenters is not going to stop the slide.