Off the fence
IT was bright and early last Thursday when the news broke that Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh would be commentating on his last All-Ireland final for RTE Radio just a few days later.
In the days that followed, hours of radio and TV air time were dedicated to paying tribute to his sterling service to the national broadcaster since 1949. And many were the column inches in national newspapers that tried to capture the man behind the microphone after he revealed that he was leaving it all behind.
Not to mention the plethora of online bloggers and contributors that flocked to websites to tell their Micheál story and show their appreciation for what he did on any given Sunday.
There is little doubt that this outpouring will continue indefinitely as the prospect of life without one of the most distinctive voices in Ireland begins to dawn on us all.
This display of public gratitude and genuine appreciation to one broadcaster should leave nobody in any doubt about the contribution Ó Muircheartaigh made to the GAA, RTE radio, and sports commentary over the last 61 years.
He has been described in recent days in a million different ways but, for me, ‘a force of nature’ is probably the most appropriate way of all to describe the most energetic and enthusiastic 80 years-old in Ireland.
Like most Irish people that grew up listening to RTE radio over the last 50 years, when this writer was still in short pants (and that’s not today or yesterday), hearing that distinctive voice painting pictures of Munster hurling finals from Thurles, Ulster football finals from Clones and big days in Croke Park was part and parcel of every childhood summer.
Sure, Micheál could even make Castlebar or Ballina sound exotic and romantic when he put his mind to it!
In later years, some life choices and an interest in sports commentary brought this parish into close contact with the man himself in press boxes the length and breadth of the country.
For the last fifteen years or so, no national league or championship season went by without watching or hearing Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh in full flight just a few yards away, or seeing him entering or leaving a dressing-room having gleaned another nugget of information.
You couldn’t but be impressed by his energy, his flow, his enthusiasm, his ability to mix English and Irish commentary seamlessly, and his ability to define any moment that was unfolding.
Last Sunday evening, having commentated on an All-Ireland final for the very last time, and shortly before putting away his notes for the last time at Croke Park on the third Sunday in September, Ó Muircheartaigh signed off in his own inimitable style. “I saw my first All-Ireland between Mayo and Cavan here in 1948, and they [the big games] haven’t lost their magic since,” he said softly.
For most of us his voice was part and parcel of that magic.
Thanks for the memories.