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Legend of sports radio laid to rest

HE was a man who filled the airwaves with his poetic descriptions of Irish sportsmen "tilting against the odds" on faraway pitches.

Tender tributes were paid yesterday to radio commentator Philip Greene, whose broadcasts were described as compelling listening for those with, or without, an interest in sport.

Mr Greene, who was also head of RTE's sports department prior to his retirement in 1985, died at the weekend aged 90.

He started his career on Radio Eireann in the 1940s and delivered his first live commentary on Ireland's 1-0 defeat by Argentina at Dalymount Park in 1951.

Former journalist Peter Byrne told the congregation in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Co Dublin, of a man who loved few things more in life than watching Ireland and Shamrock Rovers play football.

"Mention the name of Philip Greene to people of a previous generation and it evokes a whole raft of memories of warm sunlit days long, long ago when the sap was still rising and all the skies were blue," he said.

"And if you close your eyes and listen hard enough, you may just hear the roar of a crowd and relive those magical moments when Irish sportsmen were tilting against the odds in some distant clime and a nation hung on every word that fell from the maestro."

Mr Byrne said the broadcaster was a man who was admired by his peers as a master at his craft and someone who was an integral part of the sporting fabric of this country.

"His mastery of the English language was such that he was able to create perfect word pictures so attractive that even people with only a distant, peripheral interest in sport were close to their radios."

Mr Greene was also independent-minded and occasionally ruffled feathers, such as the time when he refused to commentate on a game between Ireland and Yugoslavia in 1955, Mr Byrne said. The then Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, had asked the FAI not to proceed with the match because of the persecution of Catholics in Yugoslavia.

Among the mourners were current Shamrock Rovers players Craig Sives, Ryan Thompson and Chris Turner, who helped carry his coffin, former Ireland player Paddy Mulligan, broadcasters Des Cahill and Jim Sherwin, and Fred Cogley, a former head of RTE Sport.

Mr Greene's daughter Rhona said her father "lived his life to the fullest, moment by moment, he loved his work and public life but was also a very quiet, private man who lived for his family and loved them deeply".

Philip Greene is survived by his wife Patricia, sons Philip and Eoin and daughters Rhona and Edeana.

Irish Independent