Eamon Dunphy: RTÉ made decision to proceed without him

Eamon Dunphy's mysterious absence from a whole segment of RTÉ's coverage of the UEFA champions league last Tuesday can now be cleared up.

While nipping out for a cigarette, Dunphy got caught up in a heated discussion on the parlous state of the economy and missed his cue to return to studio.

Viewers of RTÉ's coverage of the clash between Inter Milan and Manchester United were puzzled when the programme returned after an ad break to see no sign of the country's most controversial pundit.

Pictures showed resident host Bill O'Herlihy discussing the game with panellists John Giles and Graeme Souness. But Dunphy was conspicuously absent.

Dunphy took the opportunity to slip out for a cigarette as the programme headed into its second-last advertising break. Outside he bumped into an econ­- omist who had just participated in a Prime Time discussion on the economic meltdown.

Dunphy, who had been reduced to tears when discussing the country's economic future a few weeks ago on the Late Late Show, became so involved in the discussion that he missed his cue to return to the studio.

Although he was only minutes late, the potential disruption of him being miked up and taking his seat resulted in a decision to proceed without him until the next ad break.

Dunphy was back the next night for the station's coverage of Liverpool's champion's league match with Spanish giants, Real Madrid, when he berated Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez – after the team had just beaten the Spanish champions in Madrid – for setting a bad example to young children by playing such boring football.