Owen Ryan talks to Cratloe native and YouTube star Michael Ramsay who has gone from doing vox pops on the streets of Ennis to posing for selfies with fans at St James Park in Newcastle.
HIGH energy, humourous and irreverent, Michael Ramsay’s monologues on soccer run up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube every week.
The 29-year-old Cratloe man goes by the name of the Irish Guy on YouTube, and is the sole contributor to the HITC Sport channel, still being one of its employees despite developing a huge audience for himself, his brand of football humour clearly striking a chord with audiences.
Nearly ten years ago while a college student, Michael spent a number of months doing a journalism internship in the Clare Champion, and is surely the only person to have gone from proof reading parish notes to making videos that are viewed all over the world.
The videos are all light hearted, as he pokes fun at all sorts of targets and doesn’t spare himself either, on a recent video saying his own brain resembles “a bowl of shepard’s pie’, while revealing a tattoo of Leeds’ Patrick Bamford, which he had said he would get, in what he thought was the unlikely event of the Yorkshire club finishing in the top half of the league.
It’s all about entertainment and the numbers show he is giving that to people. The HITC Sport channel itself has just shy of a half a million subscribers, while over 100,000 people had watched the Bamford tattoo video within 17 hours of it going live.
His other videos that week had got between 125,000 and 171,000 views; very impressive numbers and hugely attractive to advertisers.
Some of his most popular videos actually got vastly more hits, with one video two years ago having just shy of two million views.
Now based in Newcastle, he left this country for England after graduating with a degree in Journalism from UL in 2014.
After a spell travelling the country doing internships there, Michael went on to do a Masters in Sports Journalism in Sunderland, and expected to go into a more conventional reporting role, before his career took a surprising turn.
“I didn’t see this coming at all, I was always ‘head down and write’, like you guys basically. HITC was a sports website and I’d write a few articles for a bit of pocket money while I was looking for a job.
“Then I suggested to my boss that I’d pick up a camera, do a documentary on Sunderland Football Club or something. He said ‘that sounds interesting, why don’t we set up a YouTube channel, you can be the face of it, and we’ll see how it goes.’ Five years later I’m still doing it, I thought it’d last about two weeks!” he laughs.
In the early days he was on a slightly different track, with the videos all being vox pops with fans of various clubs, hearing their views, and he says his experience in the Champion had helped give him the confidence to do it.
“I interviewed Sunderland fans, Newcastle fans, I went down to Wembley to interview England fans, going to Scotland doing Celtic, going to Manchester. That’s what I was doing for the first six months. I always say, it was with John Kelly that I started doing vox pops on the streets of Ennis.”
Having found his feet doing that, he wanted to take things a bit further, to talk about his own views and bring a little of his own personality and charisma into it.
“Around mid 2017 or so I said I want to give my opinions, just doing monologues to the camera, and people seemed to like it for whatever reason! It’s great, I love it. There’s no editor looking over my scripts, none of that, I’ve complete creative freedom, I can say whatever I want, within reason. It’s great.”
Michael put in a big effort during the 2018 World Cup, covering every match and seeing the number of subscribers shoot upwards.
Since then the viewing numbers have been very strong, many fans clearly enjoying what he brings, and he is delighted he has made his living this way.
“Absolutely, I love it. I honestly can’t believe you can have a good job out of this. Back in 2012 (when he was at the Champion) this wasn’t an option at all. It’s only the last five years it’s been a viable sort of job.”
And it is a job – not just a bit of craic – which he works hard at.
“It’s a proper nine to five job really. You get up in the morning, script for two to three hours, make sure you have it right, also add the humour, make sure you’re not repeating yourself, all that kind of stuff.
“The editing will take the rest of the afternoon. I do everything basically, script it, record it, and then there’s about three or four solid hours of editing.”
He needs to know what’s happening on the pitch, what transfers are happening, how clubs, managers and players are doing, but as a soccer obsessive that comes easily.
“You definitely have to stay clued in, but I’d be doing it anyway.”
For younger people, online influencers are celebrities in their own right, so does Michael often get approached by fans?
“The first time it happened was about three years ago. I’d go to a Newcastle game and 14 year olds would be coming up looking for selfies, which are the autographs these days. I’d be like ‘alright’. Their mothers would be looking at me as if ‘who the hell is this guy, why’s he getting a selfie with him.” he laughs.
The pandemic has made that side of things a little easier, giving him some more anonymity around Newcastle.
“It hasn’t been so bad when you’re wearing a mask inside in Tesco, but if there was no mask, yeah. I think it’s funny really, more than anything else.”
His partner Deanna is often a bit taken aback by the attention. “She finds the whole thing funny as well, when we’re out and about and someone wants to come over for a photo she’s like ‘what the hell?” he laughs.
A lot has been said in recent years about the impact on online trolls and the casual cruelty meted out on the internet.
As someone who puts out several videos a week watched by hundreds of thousands of people, does he get much stick?
“I think I’m lucky, I don’t really, no. My sense of humour on the videos, I take the piss out of myself a lot. Once you make yourself the joke, no one else can say anything!
“I think it’s the people who take themselves a bit too seriously, they’re the ones who get targeted with it. I think I’m lucky, there’s been nothing yet really.
“For those that do, it’s only words on a page. I don’t think anyone should read into it too seriously, you don’t know where these people are coming from, they could be having a hard life themselves, want to take out their anger or whatever.”
Like most Irish soccer fans he was desperately hoping that England wouldn’t become European champions earlier this summer, and was making no secret of that on his videos. Did the neighbours not mind that?
“Nah, nah. When my name is the Irish Guy people sort of expect it. I made such a big deal out of Declan Rice and Jack Grealish declaring for England that people sort of said ‘obviously’.”
A fan of Newcastle United since he was a boy, he was a season ticket at St James Park before Covid and loves the city.
“I think it’s easy to settle down in Newcastle. I’ve lived in London and that’s different, very claustrophobic, no one looks up to say hello to anyone. Newcastle is a bit like Ireland in a way, a bit more social, a bit more friendly. It’s just easy to live there.”
When he was getting career advice no one told him he could this as it wasn’t yet a ‘thing’, but he has made a success of what was initially just an experiment, and he feels there is further potential in the field.
“I think more advertisers are going to put their ads on YouTube so it’s only going to go one way.”