Today was the end of an era in Irish broadcasting as the legendary Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh presented his last All Ireland Final. Micheál has been commentating on GAA games for over 60 years and announced earlier this week that he was to retire at the age of 80. He will be missed by hundreds or thousands of listeners both in Ireland and worldwide for whom he was as much a part of a game as the players or the referee.
It was commonplace for Irish GAA fans to watch a game on TV with the sound turned down and have the radio nearby to enjoy Micheál’s unique style. His knowledge of the game itself was second only to his ability to put it in context from so many points of view. He also entertained and many of his quotes will last the test of time as the history of the GAA is written for decades to come:
Being from Cork, I remember some of those that relate to Cork best; For example:
“Sean Óg o Hailpín….his father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold.”
“Colin Corkery on the 45 lets go with the right boot. It’s over the bar. This man shouldn’t be playing football. He’s made an almost Lazarus-like recovery from a heart condition. Lazarus was a great man but he couldn’t kick points like Colin Corkery.”
“Teddy McCarthy to Mick McCarthy, no relation, Mick McCarthy back to Teddy McCarthy, still no relation”
But for me, what I will never forget is the sense of literally seeing a match through Micheál’s eyes;
I lived in Philadelphia in 1997 and at the time the internet as a mass media outlet was in its infancy. RTE had only recently started streaming radio content and on the morning of the second Sunday in September I decided to put it to the test. Being 5 hours behind Ireland, the match started about 10:30 in Philly and having been out the night before, I was not interested in going to an Irish pub as would have been the norm to watch a match from home.
So at about 10:25 I logged into rte.ie and found the link for the live stream, it took a while to ‘buffer’ but once the stream started it was just like having a radio from home. The All Ireland hurling final was about to start
I lay on the couch with Micheál’s tones booming from the PC nearby and as I listened to his description of the action closed my eyes. Micheál’s commentary is so descriptive, as I relaxed I began to picture the game. To this day I recall actually seeing the action as it unfolded and what a game it was with excitement from beginning to end and Clare eventually emerging as victors over Tipperary with the minimum score advantage.
Micheál’s ability to bring the action into the living room or indeed the car meant that if you had occasion to miss a game on the TV, the disappointment would be short-lived as the radio coverage was often better. Hard to see now if that will ever be the case again.
At DiscoveringIreland we wish Micheál the very best in his retirement!!