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Darragh McManus on radio: Farewell to a great Englishman who was loved in Ireland

 

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Jack Charlton after the 1-1 draw with The Netherlands at Italia 90, a result that saw the Republic of Ireland qualify for a last 16 meeting with Romania

Jack Charlton after the 1-1 draw with The Netherlands at Italia 90, a result that saw the Republic of Ireland qualify for a last 16 meeting with Romania

SPORTSFILE

Jack Charlton after the 1-1 draw with The Netherlands at Italia 90, a result that saw the Republic of Ireland qualify for a last 16 meeting with Romania

You know you've achieved a sort of immortality among the public when people don't need to use your surname when referring to you. So it was for one former footballer who died last week.

To English fans, he was the widely admired World Cup winner Jack Charlton; to Irish fans, he was the well-loved manager of the national team from 1986 to 1995, known simply as Jack or Big Jack.

Off the Ball (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 1pm) reasserted its credentials as the finest sports show on Irish radio with a really good all-day homage/retrospective on Saturday. Weekend host John Duggan - who has really come into his own over the last few months, particularly with the excellent "classic World Cup" series - brought together a fantastic collection of interviews, memories, reflections, tributes, listener memories, and of course, some quotes from the great man himself.

"We've had great days and nights," we heard Jack say in that inimitable Geordie burr, "and I hope -I know - that the people of Ireland enjoyed them, and cherished those days."

They kicked off, fittingly, with a few words from another legend of association football, and regular contributor to Off the Ball, John Giles. The Dubliner played for Leeds alongside Charlton in one life, analysed his work on the telly in another.

"He really put this country on the map," Giles said. "He popularised the game here in a way it had never been before."

The same show's Monday edition carried one of several amusing stories to be shared over the last few days. RTÉ commentator George Hamilton recalled how, during the 1994 World Cup, Jack had agreed to do a quick half-time interview - but signalled his grumpy displeasure by facing away from Hamilton all through. Then, to demonstrate the man's generosity of spirit, he let bygones be bygones and took the two RTÉ men out to dinner.

Over on Saturday Sport (Radio 1, 2pm), Darragh Maloney recalled being "star-struck - and actually kind of terrified" at the thought of interviewing Charlton, back in the early days of what has proven an exceptional career in sports broadcasting. The same show also played Gabriel Egan's memorable commentary over Ray Houghton's immortal goal against England in 1988: in some ways, the most magical single moment of the whole Big Jack story.

Perhaps the nicest tribute to Jack came from granddaughter Emma Wilkinson on the following day's Sunday Sport (Radio 1, 2pm). "He loved Ireland," she said, "he had a great affinity with Ireland, and he would be extremely proud to hear some of the things that have been said - to know he was loved back."

Indo Review