independent

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Captivating story of The Memory Man

SHEA TOMKINS

Published 16/10/2012 | 11:09

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PICTURE THIS. Jimmy Magee is standing behind the counter in your local chemist, handing out prescriptions.

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'Ah Mrs O'Reilly, no need to show me the script - same medication as last time I expect, to keep that blood pressure under control. And the husband, how's his chilblains? Did that steroidal cream do the trick? He was a fine man on the football pitch. I remember him getting a hattrick against the Town back in 1983. A hat-trick of headers, no less, a feat that is still to be repeated at local level soccer throughout the country as far as I can remember through the intervening years.

' Memory Man Jimmy Magee as your local chemist? It just doesn't sit right, but this is how life may have turned out had the trainee pharmacist not stuck to his guns when it came to following his dream career. Thankfully, his self-professed stubborn streak dictated his fate or Ireland would have been deprived of one of its most colourful sports commentators. In his recently released autobiography, Memory Man, (what else were they going to call it?) Jimmy sheds light on a private life which he has pretty much managed to keep under wraps for the best part of 60 years. In fact, in its pages, he reveals that an invasion of privacy was the main reason he ruled out running for the most recently vacated Irish Presidency seat, when it was recommended in certain quarters that he should.

His recounting of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, in 1972, is captivating, as his managing to breach security just hours before the heinous murders occurred was caught on film and news stations all over the world wanted that clip. He also opens up as to why he sat angry and alone in a German hotel room watching the famous Irish victory over England in Euro '88. I'll let you read his honest account yourself. Jimmy has lived through more than his fair share of tragedy. He lost his beloved wife, Marie, at a relatively young age, and his son Paul also died young, having succumbed to Motor Neuron's Disease.

How these losses have affected the seemingly ever-jocular commentator for the rest of his life will tug at the heart strings, especially when he mentions the loneliness that ensued. It appears that his work prevented life's cruel blows from dragging him down. Memory Man is an honest and enjoyable read, and will appeal to all people that have an interest in sport. A no-brainer, really, for any woman that is struggling to think of a suitable Christmas present for the man, or men, in her life.

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