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Review: Memoir: Memory Man by Jimmy Magee with Jason O’Toole

Being such a legend Jimmy Magee could have indulged himself a little and got all pompous and long-winded in his memoir. But not a bit of it. As always he cuts straight to the chase in as concise a manner as possible. He has so much to cover that he doesn't dawdle. His book is an absolute tonic to read, whether you're into sport or not.

Jimmy has never been one to follow the herd, which makes his story particularly refreshing.

An example would be his views on Michelle Smith, who was so shamefully excluded from the recent Olympics by the powers that be here and has been ostracised by them for years.

Jimmy has always been a supporter. He reminds us that she did all the drug tests at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 where she won three golds, making her Ireland's most successful Olympian ever.

It was two years later when a urine sample that was taken out of competition was judged to have been tampered with and she was given a ban that ended her career.

"It was all sour grapes on the part of the American brats, who felt it was their God-given right to win on home soil," Jimmy writes. "We must also remember that President Clinton apologised for the American swimmers' insulting innuendos at the time."

Jimmy accepts that Michelle's improvement in a short space of time was unusual. But he points out that, fast though she was, it wasn't a very fast Games and "she won in a time that would not have got her first over the finishing line in previous Olympics".

Jimmy is as clear and fearless in everything else in his book, a memoir of an extraordinary life. He's now 77 and the longest-serving sports commentator in the English-speaking world.

He was born in New York in 1935 but came back to Co Louth with his family when he was three. By 1957 he had started work in radio and he's never stopped.

Despite his success and his unfailingly cheery persona he's also had his tough times, most notably the sudden death of his wife Marie in 1989 and the tragic loss of his son Paul to motor neurone disease in 2008. His wife's death at such an early age caught up with him after he had a triple bypass in 1999.

"I cried bitterly after my heart operation. I had remained strong when my wife died by not crying -- even though I was a broken man on the inside -- but after the operation I broke down, because the sorrow of her death came flooding back to me."

He has done 11 Olympic Games, 12 FIFA World Cups, 29 European Cup finals, 11 athletics world championships, 30 world title fights and 10 Tours de France, plus he's witnessed firsthand some of the most important moments in sporting history and met icons like Pele, Maradona and George Best.

Both on and off the field of play it's a great story. And he remembers everything.

Indo Review