Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ryle Nugent: 'Bill combined professionalism with a personal touch of having his finger on the nation's pulse'

Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane at the Republic of Ireland training camp in Saipan ahead of the 2002 World Cup
Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane at the Republic of Ireland training camp in Saipan ahead of the 2002 World Cup

Ryle Nugent

I started working with Bill O'Herlihy in RTÉ on the US World Cup coverage in 1994. I was the member of the production team responsible for helping to produce the analyst packages before, during and after each game.

But it was all led by Bill in terms of sitting beside him, and him provoking and questioning the panellists in terms of what they wanted to show. Ultimately, he would decide what excerpts would be used. It was a different time in terms of technology and a very manual way of editing. He was very central to making decisions on what would work.

I think everybody needs to remember Bill was a journalist first and foremost.

He had a clear understanding of what we did and how we did it.

He was incredibly generous in his time to young guys coming through the ranks. That isn't something that is prevalent in work.

I was the executive editor of the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championships.

The 2002 World Cup was, of course, memorable for the Saipan incident involving Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy. That was a really challenging time for us in terms of the output because of the timezone differences.

And it was a story that captured the national interest, so Bill was aware there was a significant role for RTÉ Sport to play.

He was a rock and his energy levels were remarkable.

There's not many broadcasters who would be able to continue on air for so long for days on end. It wasn't unusual for him to be in studio for six or eight hours and then you had to also add in the preparation time which he would commit to every broadcast.

My long-standing memory will be his professional generosity to me. He was absolutely supportive and he was hard on me at times.

If Bill was asked for his view, he gave it: "Be careful of this and don't do that."

After I was commentating on the famous Ireland-England rugby match at Croke Park, I got a message from Bill saying: "Well done kiddo, you got it right on the day." That was more important to me than anything else.

Bill had a unique ability, the inquisitive mind of a serious journalist is an ability that is hard to explain to people.


Sitting in the studio, whether it was win, lose or draw, he had the unique ability to be able to bring along the journalistic element to the analysis.

His greatest combination was his professionalism and the personal touch of having his finger on the pulse of the nation.

We all want to go on forever, but Bill was realistic enough to know there was a time for him to go. I was incredibly sad for him to go when he retired last year.

He never felt like he was being pushed out the door.

There was an element of him having to end somewhere and a World Cup final last year was as good as anywhere after 10 World Cups and 10 Olympics.

I think the public will remember him as someone who was in the unique and enviable position of being there for the great days in Irish life.

He was genuinely held in high regard and high esteem by everybody and I fail to remember any critics of him over the years.

Irish Independent

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