Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh a very special guest at Roscommon CBS Medal Presentation
On Thursday night of last week I attended the medal presentation to the Roscommon CBS team that played in and lost the All-Ireland Colleges ‘A’ Hogan Cup Final to Dingle in Croke Park in April. The special guest was Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh. He was in sparkling form. He is currently 84 years of age and as sprightly as a man much, much, younger. He has become an iconic figure, a living legend and I do not know many of those who are as active as Micheál. He has been to many, many, clubs and venues throughout the country and amongst the Irish diaspora abroad over the years. He got a glowing introduction by CBS staff member Kieran Beirne on Thursday night. I don’t know if he feels pressure but he certainly lived up to the introduction. I had the pleasure of introducing him a few summers ago at Boyle Arts Festival when he read from his biography ‘From Dún Síon to Croke Park’ which I will quote a few pieces from here.
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh was born in Dún Síon just outside Dingle, County Kerry in 1929. Ó Muircheartaigh grew up on the family farm and was educated locally in Dingle. In September 1945 he began studying at Coláiste Íosagáin in Baile Bhúirne in the County Cork Gaeltacht where he was in training to be a teacher. It was at this all-Irish school that his name changed from Michael Moriarty to the Irish version Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh . In September 1948 he began the final year of his teacher training at St Patrick's College of Education in Drumcondra, Dublin.
In early March 1949 Ó Muircheartaigh, along with ten other students from the college, and several from other colleges, did a test commentary on a hurling game at Croke Park. Each student had to commentate for five minutes in Irish and the most successful would be selected for further commentary work. Ó Muircheartaigh had never seen a game of hurling before. But he knew that those adjudicators judging his commentary were not able to see the game:
'Twas a new game to me. But I knew one person. He was in goal for UCD and his name was Tadhg Hurley. He went to school in Dingle and he had hurling because his father was a bank manager and had spent time in Tipperary or Cork. The moment my minute started, he was saving a fantastic shot. And he cleared it away out, I can still see it, out over the side-line, Cusack Stand side of the field, eighty yards out. But it was deflected out by a member of the opposition. The adjudicators couldn't see that that didn't happen. Who was called out to take the line-ball? The only person I knew, Tadhg Hurley. And he took a beautiful line-ball - Christy Ring never took better. He landed it down in front of the Railway goal, there was a dreadful foul on the full-forward, and there was a penalty. And who was called up to take the penalty? Tadhg Hurley. 'Twas the best individual display ever seen in Croke Park. It took him at least a minute to come from the Canal goal up. And while he was coming up I spoke about his brother Bob, who was in Donal's class, and his sister who used to come out to Dún Síon strand during the summer. So eventually he took the penalty. I've seen DJ Carey, I've seen Nicky Rackard, I've seen Christy Ring. None of them could ever equal the display he gave that day... Sin mar a thosaigh sé!"
Throughout his broadcasting he has speckled it with memorable phrases and anecdotes which are regularly repeated and he is a favourite subject for would-be impersonators. One of the best known quips relates to a great Cork hurler "Sean Og Ó Hailpin.... his father's from Fermanagh, his mother's from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, RTÉ
Ó Muircheartaigh was the one selected and his first assignment was to provide an all-Irish commentary on the 1949 Railway Cup final on St. Patrick's Day.
He graduated from St. Patrick's College a little later and also completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from University College Dublin. He taught economics, accountancy and Irish in both primary and secondary schools throughout Dublin, the majority of which were run by the Christian Brothers. He continued teaching up until the 1980s, when he became a full-time broadcaster with Raidió Teilifís Éireann.
For the early part of his broadcasting career Ó Muircheartaigh commentated on Minor GAA matches, in the Irish language. He also replaced the legendary Micheál O'Hehir when he was not available to commentate. Eventually when O'Hehir was forced to retire in the mid-1980s Ó Muircheartaigh took over as the station's premier radio commentator. He developed his own inimitable style of commentary and his accent is unmistakably that of a native Irish speaker. He is a true lover of Gaelic Athletic Association and it is reflected in the enthusiasm he brings to matches. His unusual turn of phrase has made him a much loved broadcaster and often imitated character. He has become particularly famous in Ireland for his unusual turns of phrase in the heat of the moment while commentating.
Ó Muircheartaigh's commentaries for RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport show won him a Jacob's Award in 1992. He was also the Parade Grand Marshal for the 2007 St. Patrick’s Festival, having been given the honour by the chairman of the Festival in recognition and appreciation of his unique contribution to Irish culture.
In September 2010 he announced his retirement from broadcasting. The last All-Ireland he commentated on was the 2010 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final on 19 September 2010. On 29 October 2010 it was announced that the 2nd International Rules test at Croke Park would be Ó Muircheartaigh's final broadcast as commentator on RTÉ Radio 1 for official games. He did commentate for the Celebrity Bainnisteoir series subsequently.
He is a supporter of many causes and associated with a variety of organisations.
Sam Maguire's spectacular visit to Ireland's summit
In May 2014 Micheál accompanied All-Ireland medal winners from 32 counties when they climbed Carrauntoohil bringing the Sam Maguire Cup to the summit as part of an Alan Kerins (Galway) Africa Charity project. Dr. Mick Loftus aged 85, a medal winner with Mayo in ’51, who has strong Boyle connections also participated climbing a significant part of the way.
So Miceál Ó Muircheartaigh continues his travels through the highways and byways of the Ireland and much further afield, a great and unique man. While the young footballers of the CBS might not have been very tuned into his character prior to the occasion they will be able to say for many a day that they met the Kerry legend.
Nature Under Pressure
I mentioned before the near extinction of the corncrake through the country due to farming practises but on reading a letter to the Sunday Independent I see a reference to the decline of another regular wild life species. The one in question is the hare and the decline of the hare on the nature reserve of Bull Island of Dublin City. According to an ecologist with forty years’ experience recording wildlife on Bull Island, “local extinction is imminent if it has not occurred already”. Once the hare and rabbit were hugely visible. However I have not seen them as such in recent times. One place they were was on Boyle golf course. I do not know what the story is there now. The snaring of rabbits was a huge practise in the fifties and they formed an important part of the food diet in that decade. Then a disease called myxomatosis was deliberately introduced in Australia in the early fifties to rid the country of a plague of rabbits. It arrived in the U.K. and Ireland in the mid to late fifties and this reduced the numbers enormously. With some resistance to the disease the rabbit population rose again in recent decades but they do not seem very visible now. Perhaps, of course, I am wrong. I started commenting on the hare but drifted to the rabbit as they join the corncrake and the hugely important bee on the endangered species list.
The Closure of the English Language Colleges in Dublin
I am pretty surprised by the blasé attitude that exists towards the closure of so many English Language Colleges in Dublin. I would had thought that this very positive industry would have been regulated appropriately. The first thing is the blatant injustice in accepting substantial fees from participants, have them come here from distant parts of the world and then not being able to provide the services paid for. If, as a parent, one had a young family member go to Brazil, Spain, or wherever to learn a language and have the chaos of the closure of the school to which they had pre-paid their fees and so on I am sure we would be very angry indeed. I hear no word of the reputational damage to the country in all this. These young people are well educated and will form a strong body of opinion into the future and will be critical of this country in terms of this experience. In the tourist area if a provider caused so many people so much expense and vexation it would be seen as terribly serious. The efforts I see being initiated, through television news, seem weak, delayed and uncaring. It surprise me also that regular and upstanding language schools do not raise their concerns more vocally since the reputation of Ireland in this service area has to be taking a battering. These young people and their families deserve much better intervention from the relevant state agencies
Boyle Seniors v Elphin
The Abbey Park is the venue on next Saturday (May 30th for a championship double header, St. Ronan's play Eire Og in the Intermediate Championship and Boyle meet Elphin in the Senior Championship. Boyle defeated Elphin last year at Croghan so it will be interesting to see what emerges this time. It will be a busy evening for all Boyle club members and anyone who can help will be welcome.
Davy Fitzgerald of Clare
While Davy Fitzgerald has been a near iconic character in Clare hurling in recent decades. He is now, however, becoming a near caricature of himself as represented in his post- match interview or non- interview after Clare’s loss to Limerick on Sunday. There are a number of very good players not playing for Clare at the moment for a variety of reasons and while Davy mentioned a three year programme for his management I think if the record does not improve this summer he will be under pressure. Still Clare were Aa-Ireland champions in 2013 which was at a time when Clare might not have thought was within their remit. Like the football game between Monaghan and Cavan the first half of Clare v Limerick was very poor but the second half provided some brilliant scores and it looks as if it is going to be another great hurling summer. This coming Sunday it is Dublin hurlers versus Galway in Croke Park. The dream is for Dublin to make the breakthrough in hurling with an All-Ireland win while Galway blow hot and cold and the non vibes coming from the county do not seem to suggest that 2015 will be any different. Still this is a very open season and with Kilkenny coming back to the pack any one of half a dozen teams could be in with a shout. From here it looks to me like Tipp are best equipped.
Roscommon v London
Roscommon achieved what everyone expected of them in defeating London on the score of Roscommon 1.14 London 0.10 on Sunday last at Ruislip. While I was not there it seems as if it was not a sparkling display but hopefully it was the slight reality check everyone needs as we go towards the game against Sligo. Well done to Enda Smith who did supply some sparkle with a fine first half performance.
Boyle Celtic had a good win over Strand on Tuesday evening and have reached the Sligo Leitrim Cup Final as a result. There they will play Calry on the week-end of June the 6th / 7th, probably in McSharry Park in Sligo.
Celtic are struggling to get a reasonable team together for these matches due to the number of players who are unavailable mostly having gone abroad in recent times. The émigrés include Brian and Jake McCrann to Canada; John Connolly to Spain, James Carty to London plus some others also being unavailable. Still they have done well with the reduced resources and under the recent management of Gerry Emmett so a Cup Final is a real possibility.