Saturday 27 December 2014

Tributes paid to 'giant of journalism' Con Houlihan

Published 06/08/2012 | 05:00

The late Con
Houlihan is
remembered
yesterday at Croke
Park
The late Con Houlihan is remembered yesterday at Croke Park
Legendary Kerry journalist Con Houlihan became a prophet in his own land when the people of his native Castleisland unveiled a bust in his like along the main street
Statue of Journalist Con Houlihan in the lounge area of the dropping Well pub in Miltown. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Con Houlihan. Photo: David Conachy

"IT was his deceptively simple turn of phrase which so successfully captured the reader's imagination."

Former 'Evening Press' editor Sean Ward -- who gave Con Houlihan his first big break in 1973 -- yesterday paid tribute to a "giant of journalism".

Mr Ward was editor of the 'Evening Press' when Con joined the paper as a fledgling columnist. He started with one column a week, but such was its popularity that he was persuaded to do three.

"His style was unique, it was deceptively simple but very carefully crafted," said Mr Ward.

"His short paragraphs disguised a sophisticated sense of the English language. It might appear he was rambling without any coherent pattern, but it all came together in the end.

"If he was writing about a GAA match he might start off by discussing what he had for lunch. That was part of his unique style. He was loveable. He could be infuriating as well. But loveable is the word that springs to mind."

Former 'Evening Press' sports editor Tom O' Shea, who worked with Con for 25 years, said the paper "gave him his first constant job''.

"He brought people to the sports pages who normally never bothered with sport," he said. "Due to his writing he improved immensely the overall standard of sports journalism in this country.

"He wrote all the way up to the end of his life because he felt he still had to produce."

Con Houlihan spent much of his journalistic life with the Irish Press Group after beginning his career as a columnist with 'The Kerryman'.

Prodigious

Known throughout his journalistic life for being a prodigious producer of copy, he was writing for both the 'Sunday World' and the 'Evening Herald' right up to the end -- his last column was published in yesterday's 'Sunday World'.

A native of Castle Island, Co Kerry, his three times weekly column on the back page of the now defunct 'Evening Press' became a must-read.

But his unique writing style, interspersed with an endless array of literary allusions, turned many readers who had only a cursory interest in sporting matters into followers.

In later years, he also wrote for the 'Irish Runner', the 'Irish Times' and the Irish Independent.

In 2010 he received an All-Ireland Inspirational Life Award for his "unique and vocal insight into all aspects of Irish society".

And last year a bronze sculpture of Houlihan -- alongside likenesses of Flann O'Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan -- was unveiled outside the Palace Bar in Dublin's Fleet Street.

Yesterday, many tributes from the worlds of sport, newspapers and politics were paid to a writer who forged his own very individual style over more than 60 years of journalism.

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, described his fellow Kerryman as a "towering figure" of journalism and commentary, and offered his condolences to his family and countless friends.

President Michael D Higgins said he was saddened by the loss of "a most original writer who had a unique style based on his extensive knowledge''.

GAA president Liam O'Neill said: "Con made a massive contribution to Irish sports writing covering all codes, but bringing a particularly acute observational eye to Gaelic games and football in particular."

Irish Independent

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