His unique style was evident at the tender age of 18
Published 17/09/2010 | 05:00
IT WAS a casual foray into the world of radio that was to end in the creation of a broadcasting institution.
Hailing from Dun Sion near Dingle, Co Kerry -- a noted footballing stronghold -- Micheal O Muircheartaigh had never even seen a game of hurling before giving his very first test commentary at Croke Park at the tender age of 18, while he was a teaching student at St Pat's Training College.
Yet even from the outset, Micheal O Muircheartaigh sounded like Micheal O Muircheartaigh.
In a stroke of divine intervention, much of the action in the game came courtesy of a Dingle man, Tadhg Hurley.
In a style that was to become his own unique trademark, he was able to weave into his commentary anecdotes about the man's brother and sister, captivating the RTE bosses.
A star was born.
"I was only 18 and a bit. I think at that time 18-year-olds generally tended to be a bit shy, they weren't as forward as the people of today," he told the Irish Independent yesterday.
"But once the game started, it was a different thing. You were doing a job then and you got wrapped up in it. Once it started, I felt great.
"Micheal O Hehir assured me that once you start, the people on the field are working for you and you just say what's happening in front of you."
Commentating was an important part of his life from the start, but it was by no means a regular gig and teaching was his bread and butter.
"I got the job through the medium of Irish and at that stage there were only two games a year that they broadcast through Irish -- on St Patrick's Day and the Oireachtas festival in the autumn," he explained.
It wasn't until 1956 that he began to broadcast in English -- the language made no difference to him -- and he became a crucial component of the Irish summer.
As for his commentating style, Micheal just concentrated on describing what was happening in front of him.
"The witty comments depend on the situation. Certain situations will remind you of other things and if you're interested in the game, you'll know a bit about them," he said.
With many changes in the GAA to contend with throughout his career, Micheal remained open-minded.
"One thing I've learned is that most changes, in retrospect, are good -- even though all of us have a natural resistance to change," he said.
Now, he is busily harbouring a scheme for his retirement -- he wants to buy "a handy little greyhound" for racing.
And his successor? "You couldn't say that -- there are any amount of them," he declared diplomatically.
How kerryman became a cultural icon