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Irial Mac Murchú

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IRIAL MAC MURCHÚ is founder and Chief Executive of Nemeton TV. Based in his native Ring, a small Gaeltacht village on the West Waterford coast, Nemeton is now one of Ireland’s leading television production companies but Irial’s early career path owed more to chance than design. "My mother, Dóirín Mhic Mhurchú, was the first female sports journalist in Ireland. She was a freelancer and the freelance journalistic world is a cut throat business. I was working as a sales rep and when she became ill back in 1992, I stood in to hold the job for her while she recovered. Thankfully she made a full recovery but she never went back to journalism and I never went back to sales repping."

Irial’s early years as a print and radio journalist coincided with a series of developments that would transform the landscape of Irish media. 

“It became evident in the early Nineties that there was going to be a revolution in television. TG4 and TV3 were in the pipeline and the Independent Production unit in RTÉ was being obliged to spend so many millions every year on independent productions so television became accessible to everybody. I was ambitious and keen to get involved and so decided to set up a production company.” - Irial Mac Murchú, Founder & Chief Executive of Nemeton TV

The Early Years

Formed in December 1993, Nemeton initially produced for RTÉ but the advent of the Irish language station TG4 in 1996, proved a natural fit for a production company firmly rooted in the Ring Gaeltacht. The resistance of some media pundits to the new station was a challenge Nemeton was determined to grapple with: “I remember one commentator saying that ‘the last thing the country needed was bearded zealots in Báinín jumpers reading the news in Irish from morning to night.’ We wanted to find a way of cutting through that image and so we managed to buy the rights for the Spanish Primera Liga and out of that was born the Spanish football coverage on TG4. The programme went out on Monday night an hour before Sky Sports and twenty four hours before Eurosport. The audience came and it cut through that prejudiced view of TG4 when it came on air first."

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The New Millennium

By the dawn of the new Millennium, Nemeton included GAA, Inter Provincial Rugby and Basketball in an increasingly impressive portfolio. But as Irial recalls, an unexpected event offered a painful lesson: “By 2001, we were the kings of television sport. We were gearing up for our biggest weekend ever. We had live rugby on Friday night, live basketball on Saturday night and we were doing the All-Ireland Club Finals on the Sunday. And on that Thursday morning a sheep on the side of a mountain in County Louth contracted Foot and Mouth disease and we had nowhere to go. Everything cancelled. We had bank debts, wages to pay – and no income whatsoever. Luckily it was only a six week period, had it gone much further I don’t know what we would have done. But it taught us a lesson; don’t depend too much on any one area of work.”

That lesson was applied and today, along with live sports coverage for TG4, Nemeton produces a range of television documentaries and lifestyle programmes, with its sister company, Digisat transmitting sports, news and current affairs images to Irish and international broadcasters. Nemeton also produces corporate videos for Irish and international clients and in November 2014 secured a prestigious contract to produce digital marketing content for the online television channel of the American photography retailer, Adorama.

The company’s success is underpinned by a fifty strong young and highly skilled workforce, many of whom are graduates of the Higher Diploma in Television Production run by Nemeton in association with WIT and Údarás na Gaeltachta. Irial is quietly proud that many of the current Nemeton team are graduates of the course – and from Ring and the surrounding county “

“You never set out to employ people – that’s not an objective in business. You set out to do something and you hope to be able to do it with excellence. Employing people isn’t a business; you have to have a product, a service that you can do better than anyone else and you’ve got to take that out there and to sell it. The employment is really a by-product but when I sit back and I look at the team here and see that so many of them are our graduates and from Ring itself and from other parts of the county, there is a certain pride that people can work and live in West Waterford, have high value jobs in a highly skilled environment, delivering world class products to clients all over the world.” - Irial Mac Murchú, Founder & Chief Executive of Nemeton TV

A Unique Location

And as he rises to the challenges of an ever changing industry, Irial is grateful for a unique location to contemplate the future of Nemeton;“I walk out the length of The Cunnigar (an extended sand spit stretching across Dungarvan Bay from the Ring Peninsula). That’s the most important work I do. Walking out the Cunnigar, thinking. I have no set time; it could be seven in the evening or eleven in the morning. I might just decide, I’m not getting anywhere here today, get my jacket and walk. And that’s the best day’s work ever."