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'My heart is still the same. I really feel as young as ever'

He's the RTE legend who has travelled the world in pursuit of sporting history but he insists that he is still up to the job of doing it all again.

Despite clocking up over half a century on the air veteran broadcaster Jimmy Magee says that there is no such thing as being too old for the job.

The 79-year-old has spoken out against ageism in the world of television in the past and he says he still refuses to accept it.

"I haven't gotten old at all. My head is still the same; my heart is still the same, I really do feel as young as ever," he told the Herald.

The New York born commentator started out in RTE in 1957 at just 21 , and he has witnessed many changes in his chosen profession since then.

"God there is opportunity everywhere now. When I started if RTE didn't like the colour of your eyes then you were gone," he recalled.

"Things are better now for young journalists and broadcasters. There are more opportunities, more outlets," adds Memory Man Jimmy who has also worked with Channel 4.

Tough

But you'll only make it if you're tough and persistent he warns newbies, saying that the world of sports is not for the faint-hearted.

"I say don't let go of your ambitions until they are putting a lid on your box. And even then, pop up and say I've got another great idea," he joked.

He has commentated on a dozen world cups for the state broadcaster. But this year proved unlucky 13 when RTE decided not to send him to Brazil to see Germany triumph.

He admitted he was hurt by the decision and he blamed it on ageism on the part of the Donnybrook broadcaster.

"Age would be my guess and I don't agree with ageism," he said at the time, with RTE lauding his stellar World Cup career but saying station chiefs were mindful of the gruelling schedule of games at the tournament.

But in true Memory Man fashion he said he picked himself up and dusted himself off - and travelled anyway.

"I was doing bits of work out there but it was a really strange thing not to be commentating," he admitted.

Not that it stopped the lively presenter from enjoying himself.

"I've been in Brazil before and it's wonderful. When you are going back you are often wondering will it be the same again but it was better," he said.

"The people are like we used to be once upon a time, friendly, kind, they'd do anything for you," said Jimmy who said he has been 'almost everywhere' in the course of his career.

Almost two months on Jimmy says that while he didn't get to go to Brazil for RTE, the broadcaster is supportive of older staff.

"I think it's great that so many of the commentators are older on RTE. You have to trust someone on air when they talk about sport, at least you know they have seen it before," he noted.

Whirlwind

Brazil was just a pit-stop in a whirlwind year of top sporting events he is covering.

"The things I've done this year have been quite amazing. I've been in Kazakhstan for the World Series boxing, Azerbaijan for the world congress of sports journalists and Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games," he said.

"People say I've done it all many times but I'd be willing to do it all again," he revealed.

Not only is the Jimmy considered the voice of many World Cups for Irish fans he has also covered every Olympic games for the state broadcaster since Munich in 1972.

One of the most historic moments that he had the chance to cover for Ireland was Katie Taylor's spectacular Gold win in London 2012.

He is a familiar part of the sporting landscape of Ireland.

He earned his nickname for his extraordinary recall of sporting trivia and even now he has an unparalleled sporting knowledge.

Professionally Jimmy has enjoyed many highs but he has suffered heartache in his personal life.

He was widowed at just 54 when his wife Marie passed away and never remarried saying it simply never came up.

He jokes that he is envious of playboy millionaire Hugh Heffner's lavish lifestyle but later admits that he doesn't really mean it.

"I am happy enough on my own - that's not to say I'm always happy but mostly.

"I can do as I like," he noted.

And the passing of his eldest son Paul just four years ago was devastating for the broadcaster.

"It's still very raw," he admitted.

Paul, who once played for Shamrock Rovers, died from motor neurone disease in 2008.

"It was so hard to watch him passing away slowly in front of my eyes," he said.

"It's unnatural for a parent to outlive their child. We were very, very close, great friends.

"He was a real sportsman- I only talk about it but he did it," he said.

"I talk to him regularly and we still have a bit of craic," he added.

"Tragedy comes in twos. That's what I believe," Jimmy said, explaining: "I lost my wife and my mother within months of each other. Then years later my younger sister died just a few weeks before Paul," he says.

"Everyone has tragedy in their life. Nobody gets away that easy," he said but added that 'getting on with things' when tragedy strikes is a must.

"You have to knuckle down to it, you have to teach yourself to get over it. Even if in your quiet moments you are maybe not over it all.

"But you can't cry on the air or present with tears in your eyes. It's not on to burden other people with your grief."

Heroes

Despite facing down his 80th birthday next February he doesn't want to quit the business just yet.

"I think I'd have to be medically forced," he said.

Over the course of almost six decades Jimmy has covered 11 Olympics, 12 world cups, 30 world title fights and met heroes like Maradona, Pele and George Best.

He really has seen it all. With one of the most illustrious careers in Irish sport broadcasting behind him, he is bound to have a cache of secrets left to disclose.

"I couldn't tell you them all," he quipped with a hearty laugh.

He is not ready to slow down yet in fact he would quite like to speed things up.

"I'd like to take a tour around all the places in the world that I loved on a Harley," he laughed, adding: "Well not really I'd be afraid for my life but I'll settle for a stretch limo."


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