Off the fence
IT was hard not to be moved by the excellent documentary on RTÉ’s Colm Murray and his battle with Motor Neuron disease, which was aired on Monday night last.
The 58-year-old is one of the most popular news or sports broadcasters on Irish television and it was heart-wrenching to see such an up-close and personal account of the awful effect the debilitating disease is having on his day to day life.
Colm has always come across as an infectious and enthusiastic individual on screen and that’s exactly the type of guy he is off screen too.
I got to meet and spend some time with Colm at a couple of Cheltenham Racing Festivals a few years back and his energy and wit were always evident in abundance.
My good friend Jonathan Mullin, the current Racing Post editor, and native of Kilmaine, was working for RTÉ during the 2008 festival in the Cotswolds, and after long days covering the festival with Colm for RTÉ, the lads, along with their camera crews, would retire to the bar of the famed Chase Hotel in Cheltenham, for some rest and relaxation.
Despite having worked perhaps a 14 hour day (Colm could be doing a radio preview at 7am for Morning Ireland and also a wrap piece for the 9 o’clock news the same evening), the Westmeath native was still the life and soul of the conversation and craic.
Tales of huge Irish gambles landed at Cheltenham and all kinds of late night shenanigans were recounted with amazing detail. You got the sense there wasn’t a county in the country where Colm Murray did not have racing people he could call true friends.
It could be clearly seen from last week’s documentary that Colm has instant rapport with those he comes into regular contact with and at Cheltenham, he liked nothing more that recounting old horse-racing stories with his colleagues.
Despite being an expert on all things sporting, there is no doubt that horse-racing is his first love. Indeed, if it wasn’t for a visit to Willie Mullins yard when he was finding it hard to come to terms with his illness, we might never have seen Colm Murray on our television screens again.
But buoyed on by the sense of energy and excitement at the country’s top stable, Colm felt there was no point taking this awful affliction lying down and he has come back fighting in a a way that can only inspire and motivate those in a similar situation.
It is typical of the man that he has put his name forward for trials and tests in the hope that eventually a cure can be found for Motor Neuron Disease. His strength and bravery in the face of such adversity should be an inspiration to us all.