RTE analysts Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady paid an emotional tribute to their retiring colleague John Giles in the veteran broadcaster’s last match for the national broadcaster this evening.
Portugal’s 1-0 victory over France in the Euro 2016 final was destined to be the last game Giles would call in Montrose and the coverage of the decider was followed by a superb montage of the 75-year-old’s best moments in the studio and on the pitch for Ireland.
RTE co-commentator Jim Beglin ended his match notes at Stade de France by saying that he “learnt a huge amount from Giles on the training pitch in Shamrock Rovers and also in RTE.”
However, it was Dunphy’s comments that best summed up the admiration both the public and his RTE colleagues have for Giles, saying: “There’ll be no past tense here, because John’s career is brilliant and his greatness is due to his courage and his foresight and his wisdom.
“He had the wisdom to leave Manchester United when they were a top club in England to go to Leeds United in the Second Division, to believe in Don Revie, who was building a great team that John partly led and largely led.
“Intellectually he knew that was the time. He went on to manage West Brom. Revie wanted him to succeed him at Leeds as the manager. Bill Nicholson wanted him to succeed him at Tottenham as the coach. He went on to manage West Brom, won promotion, fifth in what is now the Premier League, and to walk away from the game because he didn’t like the way it was run: responsibility without power.
“Managed the Irish team, changed the culture over seven years, gave Liam Brady and Mark Lawrenson and all these great players their chance. Changed things forever.
“Came home to try and build a great club at Shamrock Rovers: brave, courageous foresight. It’s always been his hallmark.
“And in the 30 years that he sat in the chair, if any kids out there are wondering, “Who’s that guy?’ That guy is the greatest football man we’ve ever had in these islands.
“And it’s going to go on for Newstalk and for The Herald. I’ll be tuning in. I’ll be buying The Herald. A great, great friend to all of us. A joy to work with and a great, great figure in the history of Irish sport. Soccer’s man.”
Here is RTE's montage tribute to Giles:
Brady echoed those thoughts, describing Giles as a great player, manager and pundit, saying: “I met John when I was 17. I was playing as a kid for Arsenal against Leeds and that’s where I first met him. He had a word with me after the game; he knew where I was from. He was the Irish manager then. I played for him and with him. He was great to play with and a great manager to play for.
“His opinions as a pundit have never been compromised by reputation of managers, by reputations of players. He’s always called it as he sees it: with honesty, with integrity and with no fear.
“And I’ve learnt an awful lot from him about football and about life. And I will continue learning because we were out on Friday night and we shall be out again. Thanks John.”
Giles himself, in his usual self-effacing manner, thanked those that gave him the chance to broadcast in RTE.
“They say when you’re enjoying yourself the time flies and the time has definitely flown,” said Giles. “It was a great 30 years and it took RTE 30 years to find me out and I wouldn’t be too unhappy about that.
“And Eamon [Dunphy] is to blame; Eamon was responsible for me coming on the programme in the first place, and the ex-head of sports Tim O’Connor, and then Liam [Brady] came in later on. Bill [O’Herlihy] was there at the start, and then you Darragh [Maloney] coming in.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been great. Time has flown.”
A fitting goodbye for one of Irish TV’s greatest and inimitable characters.
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