Monday 25 September 2017

Broadcaster Jimmy Magee's old eyes have seen it all

Legendary commentator released his debut single at 79 and scored a top five hit.

Age Gap: Jimmy Magee and grandchildren Sarah, Paul and Sinead the launch of his single. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins.
Age Gap: Jimmy Magee and grandchildren Sarah, Paul and Sinead the launch of his single. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins.
Frank McCourt
Didier Drogba
Meryl Streep
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Veteran broadcaster Jimmy Magee released his first single, 'These Old Eyes Have Seen it All', at the age of 79, and managed to score a top five hit. The legendary commentator could be the oldest person to ever release a debut single in international chart history.

"Well, I presume I might well be, because who else would be mad enough to do something like this?" Magee laughs.

However, the object of this exercise is not to book Magee's place in the record books, but to raise awareness and funds for Motor Neurone Disease research.

It is a cause that is very close to his heart. Jimmy's son Paul won a League Cup medal with Shamrock Rovers in 1977. He died from Motor Neurone Disease in 2008, aged just 51.

Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath Nicky McFadden recently died at the age of 51 from the same illness. The late RTÉ presenter Colm Murray is another well-known victim.

The release of Magee's single in the Aviva Stadium also coincided with the anniversary of his late wife.

"The single was released on the anniversary of my wife Marie's death," Magee says. "It was exactly 25 years to the day. The date wasn't chosen for any particular reason. One of my daughters noted it and said to me, 'Mammy will look after you'."

"It's nearly Paul's anniversary. It will go well. I believe in all that stuff. Maybe it will do some good. Put it this way, it certainly won't do any harm. Motor Neurone Disease research is like a giant jigsaw. Maybe one day someone will finish it.

"Paul bequeathed his brain to research before he died. I'm not so sure I would have the courage to do that, but he did it anyway.

"Wouldn't it be really something in future years if that made even a small speck of a contribution to the cure and recognition of the disease? That would be the greatest legacy anyone could leave.

"The reaction has been great, but I wanted a reaction. Not for my own selfish needs, but for Motor Neurone Disease.

"It's not life's natural order for your children to pre-decease you."

Befitting a man who has loved and lost, Jimmy has an infectious zest for life. "We are lucky to be alive now," Magee enthuses. "We can say that we caught a fella in the early 21st Century called Ronaldo. We've never seen the likes of that boy, or Lionel Messi from Buenos Aires. Suarez is probably as good as any of them. It's an absolute delight to be watching these guys. Likewise, in our own games, I don't think there has ever been a better player than Colm Cooper.

"Showbusiness has a very close relationship to sport because it is also a performance."

Jimmy Magee truly is a national treasure. The 'memory man' also has a renowned recall for names, dates and facts. His voice is etched into our national consciousness from commentating at historic sporting events. Magee will forever be part and parcel of our memories of the feats of Katie Taylor and Diego Maradona. When Barry McGuigan beat Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road, Magee delivered the immortal line: "Ladies and gentlemen, I can't believe it, but the little man from Clones has become the featherweight champion of the world."

"I've been interested in sport since I was a wee boy," Magee says. "I'd say from the age of about seven, eight or nine, I became completely fascinated by names and surnames.

"I'd make up imaginary programmes walking around the garden at home and I used to shove all these fellas' names in there. I'm just as interested now, which is amazing. I thought somewhere along the way my interest might wane.

"It's impossible to pick a highlight from over the years. To be in good enough form to enjoy them all is the best part. To be in LA when Carl Lewis won his four gold medals was amazing. I grew up in the era when people said the achievements of Jesse Owens would never be replicated. Maradonna in 1984 was special. Meeting Muhammad Ali was special. I've been a lucky boy. I was in the right place at the right time.

"My one regret is that sooner or later, I'm going to expire."

  • 'These Old Eyes Have Seen it All' is available from iTunes and branches of Heaton's Nationwide for €3 with all proceeds going to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA).

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