Friday 19 January 2018

Colm's charm endeared him to all – princes and paupers

Big Screen Tributes are paid during day two of the 2013 Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse, Ballybrit, Ireland to broadcaster Colm Murray who died yesterday
Big Screen Tributes are paid during day two of the 2013 Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse, Ballybrit, Ireland to broadcaster Colm Murray who died yesterday
Colm Murray on duty at the Curragh Racecourse

Damien McElroy

Erudite as ever, enthusiastic way beyond the call of duty and equally easy in the company of presidents, princes or paupers, I prefer to remember my dear departed colleague Colm Murray as the effervescent bundle of energy which illness may have ravaged but never dulled his spirit or his intellect.

Widely read and a font of knowledge on many topics, the proud Westmeath native was in his element dealing with people of all disciplines when covering many notable sporting achievements on the racecourse, in the company of elite performers or with Special Olympics and Paralympics athletes alike.

Colm's capacity for wonder at the feats of those he felt privileged to watch live in action and report on via radio and television was boundless and it's ironic indeed that his much-lamented passing coincides with the Galway Races, where his passion for the sport that was dearest to his heart was inculcated in his youth.

Many of us in the media were fortunate indeed to have enjoyed careers chronicling some of this country's greatest sporting endeavours at home and abroad and Colm made no secret of the fact that he revelled in these occasions. There was simply a boyish charm about the man which endeared him to friend and foe.

Stories abounded and joviality invariably reigned when in his company and, as an inveterate punter always on the lookout for ante-post value, it was never too early in the jumping season to pass on a snippet of information that might come to fruition with profitable results at Cheltenham in the spring.

Politics might have beckoned instead of teaching initially and broadcasting ultimately for the son of Moate, who often found refuge from his host of racing constituents in the infamous Fianna Fail tent at the Galway Races to impart the benefit of his wisdom to contemporary leaders of the country, notably his confidant Brian Cowen.

Despite that deep-seated political affiliation, Colm nevertheless conducted a famously candid radio interview with that sharp-minded former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave that unearthed the nugget of information that historic Coalition talks with the late Labour leader Brendan Corish, conducted for hours one Tuesday afternoon, had much more to do with private viewing of happenings during the Cheltenham Festival than prolonged wrangling over the allocation of Cabinet seats!

Gratitude

Irish racing owes Colm a considerable debt of gratitude for his unfailing dedication to coverage of the sport and allied industry and that realisation was borne out appropriately when he was honoured in the 'Contribution to the Industry' section at the 2010 Horse Racing Ireland awards ceremony.

That accolade was received with obvious gratitude by Colm who, despite being in the early stages of his debilitating illness, proceeded to regale all in attendance with vivid memories of big-race victories and punting exploits.

Over the years it was a measure of his lifelong involvement in racing that Colm was involved in quite a few fruitful ownership syndicates with the Mullins family, initially the late Paddy and more often son Willie, and likewise he had a special relationship with both Aidan and Joseph O'Brien. Typically he never travelled second class!

Damien McElroy is a former Racing Correspondent with the Irish Independent

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