Sunday 19 January 2020

Shock fall from grace for 'thinking man's sports writer' in grotesque abuse of power

Tom Humphries pictured outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts
Tom Humphries pictured outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Fifteen years ago, 'the thinking man's sports writer', Tom Humphries, was flying high after securing one of the biggest scoops in Irish sports history.

It was the 2002 World Cup and Humphries had travelled to the island of Saipan, where the Irish team was based.

There, he conducted an interview with Ireland's star player Roy Keane, who had grown increasingly irritated at the lack of professionalism on the part of the Irish management, led by Mick McCarthy, and he didn't mince his words.

It was a grenade of an article, and led directly to a no-holds-barred showdown between Keane and McCarthy, which led, in turn, to Keane's rapid departure from Saipan.

In the run-up to June 30, almost 15 years ago to the day, Humphries was at the apex of his own professional life.

He was preparing to cover the World Cup Final clash between Germany and Brazil.

Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy fell out before the 2002 World Cup. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy fell out before the 2002 World Cup. Photo: SPORTSFILE

It seems strange that, in this week of all weeks, news of his imminent sentencing for sexual exploitation and defilement of a child should break.

The charges caused shock; not only because of the grotesque breach of trust and abuse of power, but because Humphries had written eloquently about the long-term effects that child abuse had caused in the lives of people he had known.

Born in the UK, Humphries moved to Ireland as a child, and was educated by the Christian Brothers in Fairview.

Writing in 2000, he commented that he and his former classmates had seen so "many brothers who once had nicknames and reputations, leaving courtrooms with anoraks on their heads and cuffs on their wrists..."

He added that they were all "braced, waiting to discover that some sick man cast a stain on our memories".

It was during his time at the CBS that Humphries became interested in the GAA. He apparently saw it as a way to integrate himself with his peers.

In an interview with 'Hot Press' in 2003, he said: "Having an English accent, there was a desperate need to prove that I was more Irish than the Irish.


"So I took up Gaelic football… I was one of those kids that was kind of really crap, but enthusiastic at everything."

His passion for GAA and camogie and his hatred of rugby and golf was something for which he became notorious during his career. He would later coach underage GAA teams.

Humphries began writing about sport in the early 1990s. When Ireland qualified for Italia 90, he spotted and seized an opportunity.

With other journalists keen to head to Italy for the World Cup, Humphries secured a gig in Ireland, covering GAA fixtures for 'In Dublin' magazine.

From there, he moved to the 'Sunday Tribune', building up his profile before settling at the 'Irish Times'.

It was there he became something of a household name, known for his high-profile interviews, and his regular column, 'Locker Room', which was considered required reading for sports fans. He also covered major sports scandals such as the Michelle de Bruin drug test tampering in the 1996 Olympic Games and, of course, Saipan.

Humphries's vivid style of writing not only secured him a dedicated fan base, but several major publishing deals.

He worked as a ghost writer on some of Ireland's most acclaimed sports books, including Cork hurler Donal Óg Cusack's frank autobiography, 'Come What May', for which he won RTÉ Radio 1's 'John Murray Show' listeners' choice award.

He also ghost-wrote Niall Quinn's autobiography, Sonia O'Sullivan's 'Running to Standstill', and a synopsis of a sports journalist's year imaginatively titled 'Laptop Dancing and the Nanny Goat Mambo: A Sportswriter's Year'.

But it was always Gaelic games, including camogie, that he wrote most passionately about.

Sentencing will take place next month.

Irish Independent

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