Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Different class' - Bill O'Herlihy's generous letter to Irish journalist after Italia 90

Published 26/05/2015 | 11:48

Bill O’Herlihy and his infamous hat during Italia 90
Bill O’Herlihy and his infamous hat during Italia 90

Bill O'Herlihy has been hailed as one of the finest broadcasters this country has ever produced and this letter to former Irish Independent journalist Cliona Foley written after Italia 90 highlighted both his humility and generosity.

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The 76-year-old passed away at his home yesterday morning and tributes have poured in from the great and the good for one of Ireland's most-loved public figures.

In one such tribute a renowned sports journalist has revealed a touching letter the broadcasting legend sent to the young hack.

In 1990, Foley was beginning life as a rookie reporter and worked on the Evening Herald's daily 'Sport on TV' column, one of the first of its kind to cover the entertainment within the RTE studios of O'Herlihy, Giles and Dunphy.

"It covered all channels but RTE's panel quickly set the standard and stood out," she told Independent.ie. "Their programmes provided marvellous copy and fun, not least Dunphy's flying pen after the nil-all draw with Egypt and that nail-gnawing penalty shoot-out with Romania."

Only after Ireland's elimination at the quarter-final stage to Italy did Foley manage to witness the on-street celebrations because of paper deadlines.

O'Herlihy's charm and kindness has been spoken about at length since the untimely news of his passing, and the letter he penned Foley in the aftermath of that incredible summer illustrates the class of the man.

Last night she tweeted that touching letter.

"Dear Cliona," he wrote.

"Now that I have returned to the "real world" after a break following the World Cup, I write to say how much I appreciated the kind words you wrote during my four weeks on air.

"It was a privilege to be involved in a broadcast which encompassed a bit of Irish Sports history and even if the hours were long, I had a great time.

"I know you won't feel I am trespassing on your objectivity when I say how much we valued the support you gave us on the RTE Sport team during the World Cup coverage. I am extremely grateful to you.

"Yours sincerely, Bill O'Herlihy."

The journalist had never met O'Herlihy in person prior to receiving the letter.

"I had not met him beforehand and was a rookie freelance. I merely tweeted it to demonstrate his innate kindness and generosity to young people entering the business."

Foley says that O'Herlihy's kindness and enthusiasm marked him out from all others.

"Cynicism is terribly prevalent and fashionable in our business and country. I met Bill O'Herlihy many times since and was always impressed and inspired by his total lack of cynicism and infectious enthusiasm for sport and life.

"Like so many I was shocked and saddened to hear of his sudden death.

"In the words of another RTE legend: 'Different class!'"

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