Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Bill O'Herlihy was the captain who could cause a row in an empty room'

Bill O’Herlihy and Liam Brady
Bill O’Herlihy and Liam Brady

Adam Cullen

They were, in his own words "the three amigos". Eamon Dunphy, John Giles, and Liam Brady.

A more dysfunctional family you couldn't find. Rows every night on the telly, rather than over the TV remote.

And yesterday as news seeped through of Bill O'Herlihy's passing Dunphy, Giles and Brady led the universal praise.

Giles said the news of his death had come as a "great shock" to all.

"It was so unexpected," said Giles. "It's very sad. It has come as a great shock to everybody. Bill was a great man, a great broadcaster, and a great friend."

Read more: Broadcasting behemoth held our hands through best and worst moments of life

Giles said O'Herlihy's talent stemmed from his incredible ability to bring the panel together and engage the audience at home.

"His great skill came from his journalistic background which meant he could broaden the conversation in a brilliant way.

"He never got too technical about football and never pretended to be a football expert.

"In my experience as an analyst is you are only as good as your presenter, and Bill was a brilliant presenter. If you haven't got a good presenter asking intelligent questions, everything just flops."

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

During his long-standing career, he covered 10 World Cups and 10 Olympics Games.

Read more: George Hook: I've lost more than a friend in Bill O'Herlihy. We have lost our greatest sports broadcaster

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

One of his career highlights came during the Italia 90 World Cup where Giles said he helped to "capture the hearts of the nation". "I joined the show with Bill and Eamon in 1986, and no one watched us, they all were still watching the BBC.

"Then we had some success in the 1988 European Cup, and people started to take notice.

"When Italia 90 came along Bill knew and sensed the occasion and really struck a chord with the audience at home," recalled Giles.

His words were echoed by fellow pundit Eamon Dunphy who described his former co-worker as a "very nice and decent man".

"He had a journalist's sharp instinct, and he would often pull me up or in particular Liam Brady up and tell us when we were talking rubbish."

Dunphy added: "He was by far the most important person on the panel and was the catalyst for all that was good about it.

"He was our team captain, we will miss him terribly."

Read more: Graeme Souness on Bill O'Herlihy: He would throw a few hand grenades in and loved mischief


Liam Brady recalled his former colleague as being a master conductor in broadcasting.

"I've worked with Bill for the last 17 years. I can't really believe it. I'm very shocked and very sad for his family.

"He could cause a row in an empty room. He was always looking for an angle that would rile one of us or all three of us.

"He loved nothing more than getting any argument going. He was absolutely excellent at that."

He said O'Herlihy's finest hour was the 2002 World Cup.

"The panel wasn't really getting on.

"Eamon took Roy Keane's side of things and myself, and John took the opposite. There really was an atmosphere amongst us four at the time that was very difficult. You would have never known that when the programme started. He conducted it brilliantly," Brady said.

Read more: Eamon Dunphy on breaking the news of Bill O'Herlihy's death to 'devastated' Liam Brady

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