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Sadness as broadcasting legend Bill dies aged 76

VETERAN broadcaster Bill O'Herlihy has died at home aged 76, less than a year after he retired from his role as the nation's most distinguished sports anchor.

There was a sense of great sadness as the passing of the much-loved television host became known this morning.

His long-time friend and colleague John Giles led the tributes to Bill.

"It is a shock. It is very sad," he said.

"It is a shock to everybody. I worked with him for a long time and I want to extend my condolences to his family, to Hillary and the rest of the family," Mr Giles told the Herald.

The broadcaster was one of RTE's best-loved and most respected hosts up until his retirement last year after 49 years on air.

He became a journalist at the age of 16 writing for the Cork Examiner.

His first broadcast for RTE was in 1965 - a piece commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania off the Cork coast 50 years previously.

During his long-running career, he covered ten World Cups, and ten Olympics.

Bill also presented the first Rugby World Cup on RTE television as well as co-presenting the first Sunday Game with Jim Carney in 1979.


One of the highlights of his career was the Italia 90 World Cup and the discussions around the games which he recalled

shortly before he retired last summer.

"Poor old Gerry Ryan asked me after the World Cup if I was sorry I wasn't in Italy for it, but I wouldn't have missed Dublin for anything. It was a very special time," he said afterwards.

Remarking on David O'Leary's famous penalty against Romania in that tournament, he said the player had shown great bottle.

"We were jumping and dancing around in the studio when he scored. Professional job on one hand but heart on your sleeve on the other hand," he said.

Bill also had a very successful career outside of broadcasting as a PR guru. In 1973, he founded the O'Herlihy Communications Group.

It was last July when the curtain finally came down on his broadcasting career at the end of the World Cup in Brazil.

In an interview with Marian Finucane on RTE Radio One, the Cork legend revealed that he wanted to leave when the timing was right.

"The reality is I've been 49 years working for RTE and I don't want to be going out in a zimmer frame."

Over the course of his career, he won numerous awards.

He scooped a Jacob's award or his presentation of the 1990 World Cup, Irish Sports Journalist of the Year 2003 and in 2007, he was named the Irish Film and Television Academy's Television Personality of the Year.

He had a number of health scares over the years. He had a heart attack in 1984, and was forced to have a triple bypass.

He also underwent surgery for colon cancer in 2007, but recovered to resume his placed as anchor or RTE's soccer coverage. He revealed recently, his wife of 44 years wanted him to slow down but not because of his health, but rather because he has worked since the age of 16.

"I think Hillary wants me to be available to go down to Spain to play golf together. I also think that because I have worked all my life, she thinks I deserve some time off," he admitted.

He told in his autobiography, published in 2012, how his mother - who died from brain cancer - first introduced the family to cancer "and the misery it brings, and has brought, in vast quantities to our family".

"I can still remember the devastation in finding out she had the disease and the prognosis that she had only months to live.

"In her dying days in the Bons Secours Hospital in Cork, my wife Hillary and I would drive down to see her and those days were extremely upsetting. It wasn't just because she was dying, it was because of who she had been and what she became," the broadcaster recalled.

Years later, cancer also took both his sisters Mary and Margaret.