Sunday 19 November 2017

'They say you should never meet your heroes, but Jimmy Magee was an exception'

Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Sean McGoldrick, Sports Journalist, Sunday World, left, Eddie Rowley, Showbiz Correspondent, Sunday World, and Eamon Gibson, Sports Editor at Sunday World, at his 80th birthday party
Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Sean McGoldrick, Sports Journalist, Sunday World, left, Eddie Rowley, Showbiz Correspondent, Sunday World, and Eamon Gibson, Sports Editor at Sunday World, at his 80th birthday party

Sean McGoldrick

They say you should never meet your heroes, but Jimmy Magee was an exception. But then Jimmy was not just an exception – he was exceptional. The ‘Memory Man’ was the voice of Irish sports broadcasting for over half a century.

Thirteen Olympic Games, 12 World Cups, World Athletic championships, the Tour de France,  the World and European boxing championships, the US Masters, the Hockey World Cup, world title fights involving Barry McGuigan and Bernard Dunne, European Cup finals, FA Cup finals, All-Ireland football and hurling finals and FAI Cup finals. He commentated on them all and much more besides.

Jimmy had an encyclopedic like knowledge of sport; he was a human version of Wikipedia, though much more accurate. He was universally respected by the sportsmen and women he reported on and was on first-name terms with some of the legendary figures not just in Irish sport but across the globe.

Born in New York City in 1935, he returned to Ireland with his parents, Paddy and Rose in 1939 and the family settled in the Cooley peninsula where Jimmy attended Monksland National school and played with Dundalk FC as an underage player. A leg injury halted his sporting career and as he recalled himself, he quickly came to the conclusion that he would have a longer career if he started talking about football rather than playing it.

8 September 2012; Iconic Irish broadcaster Jimmy Magee after signing his new book, Memory Man, for former Republic of Ireland soccer star Paul McGrath, who was a surprise shopper, in Eason OConnell Street, Dublin. Memory Man is available in all Eason stores nationwide and at easons.com. Jimmy Magee Book Signing, Easons, O'Connell Street, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
6 September 2012; Broadcaster Jimmy Magee with Olympic Gold medal winner, Katie Taylor, who launched his autobiography "Memory Man". Havelock Suite, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
8 September 2012; Iconic Irish broadcaster Jimmy Magee signs his new book, Memory Man, for former Republic of Ireland soccer star Paul McGrath, who was a surprise shopper, in Eason OConnell Street, Dublin. Memory Man is available in all Eason stores nationwide and at easons.com. Jimmy Magee Book Signing, Easons, O'Connell Street, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with former Dublin great Jimmy Keaveney, right, and RTE presenter Des Cahill as they joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
27 October 1980; Michael Robinson, with his Irish passport, in conversation with the journalist and broadcaster Jimmy Magee. Republic of Ireland, Soccer. Picture credit; Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
16 July 2000; Jimmy Magee, commentates during the Leinster Minor Football Championship Semi Final Replay between Westmeath v Laois, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Paddy Cullen, goalkeeper with the All-Ireland Football winning Dublin team of 1974, who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Ryle Nugent, Group Head of RTÉ Sport, who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with, former Olympic boxing silver medallist and now Cllr, Kenny Egan who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with his children, from left, Patricia, June and Linda who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with entertainer Brush Shields and former Meath football manager Sean Boylan who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and Journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with former Republic of Ireland soccer manager Brian Kerr who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with boxers who between them hold 40 national boxing titles, from left to right, Darren O'Neill, 5, Mick Dowling, 8, Jim O'Sullivan, 10, Kenny Egan, 10, and Billy Walsh, 7, who joined him to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
27 March 2011; Republic of Ireland players Stephen Kelly, left, and captain Robbie Keane with sports commentator Jimmy Magee at the start of the Dublin leg of the John Giles Foundation, 'Walk of Dreams', in association with Three, Ireland's fastest growing mobile network. The fundraising walk which took place in 14 locations nationwide brought nearly 50,000 people from all over Ireland to raise funds for the beautiful game and the John Giles Foundation, to continue the growth of football. The Walk of Dreams took place in Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar, Galway City, Ennis, Limerick City, Tralee, Cork City, Athlone, Thurles, Waterford City, Enniscorthy, Dublin City and Dundalk. The John Giles Foundation was founded to use football as a vehicle for social change, to build community cohesion, increase participation and to improve health and education by providing funding to help football in clubs, schools and community groups in Ireland. Half of the funds raised will be retained by participating football clubs while the other half will go to the Foundation for community football projects in clubs, schools and community groups throughout Ireland. John Giles Foundation Walk of Dreams in association with Three. Fitzwilliam Street via Ringsend to Aviva Stadium. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee celebrates his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
2 February 2015; Broadcaster and journalist Jimmy 'The Memory Man' Magee with Sean McGoldrick, Sports Journalist, Sunday World, left, Eddie Rowley, Showbiz Correspondent, Sunday World, and Eamon Gibson, Sports Editor at Sunday World, as he celebrates his 80th birthday at a party in the Goat Bar & Restaurant, Goatstown, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Initially he wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy, but the premature death of his father meant that at the age of 15 he had to leave school and get a job, initially in a local pharmacy. Later he secured the position of clerk in the passenger office of what was then known as the Dundalk-Newry and Greenore Railways.

Soon afterwards the Greenore office closed down and Jimmy was offered a job in the British Rail office situated on the North Wall in Dublin. One of his colleagues in the office was Peter Byrne, the future soccer, boxing and athletic correspondent of the Irish Times.

He got his break in broadcasting on a programme called Junior Sports Magazine, which was aired on Saturday evenings on what was then Radio Eireann. It was presented by Harry Thuiller who had competed for Ireland in the 1952 Olympic Games. From those humble beginnings in the mid-1950s Jimmy built a stellar career in broadcasting.

He wrote a weekly column for the Sunday World from its foundation in 1973 and every year selected his world best soccer team for the paper.  Jimmy’s Quiz became an institution in the paper and one of the highlights of the week was Jimmy’s weekly visits to our offices with the handed written quiz which he road-tested on the sports journalists before we adjourned for lunch.

Though his health had declined in the last couple of years, he rarely missed a visit and even when he was hospitalised on occasions he made sure the quiz was done and delivered.

He was also involved in show business, he was a co-founder of Release Record, a very successful Irish record label, he was a songwriter and he compiled the first ever Irish Top Ten – decades later he had a top hit himself.

Through his work with the Jimmy Magee All Stars, which he founded in the mid-sixties, he raised over £2 million for charity.

A man of many parts, we will never see the likes of him again.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

Sean McGoldrick

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