RIP Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh

Photo: RTÉ

There was widespread sadness today as news broke that the doyen of GAA commentary, the great Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, has died. He was 93 years of age.

It seems but a short while since Mícheál retired from active service behind the microphone but, in fact, it’s fourteen years since this happened, at a time when he was still an energetic 80 year-old.

But by then he’d been calling games for a full sixty years, doing so his own utterly unique way. His longevity meant that, for almost everyone alive today who’s interested in Gaelic games, Mícheál’s vivid commentaries, conjuring lyrical images of all those sporting battles, were such an essential part.

I had the honour to have encountered him on three separate occasions, all in or around Mayo matches. The first two I’ve recounted previously on the blog (here), in a piece I wrote when he’d announced his retirement in 2010. I recalled then that I’d spoken with him in the old Hogan Stand at the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in 1985 and also at a League game against Cork in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh a few months before he announced his retirement.

It’s the final time I met him, though, that sticks best in my memory. That was ten years ago on a day seared in the collective memories of all Mayo supporters. It was that fateful day down in Limerick.

We found ourselves in a hotel in the vicinity of the Gaelic Grounds a few hours before throw-in queuing for what turned out to be almost inedible food. A number of journalists from the national papers were also in the queue and so too, now a man of 84, was Mícheál.

One of our company was outraged that a national icon should have to wait in line in this way. Nothing would do her but to find a table, guide the great man to it and bring him his dinner.

We sat down with him, all of us in our Mayo garb, and he asked us where we were from and teased from us our stories. It’s not for nothing that so many recollections of Mícheál today are about his love of stories.

Mícheál was of the same generation as my parents and it’s only in their passing that we can truly realise what a remarkable cohort they were.

Hard workers all – Mícheál put in a full life’s shift as a teacher up here in Dublin as well as doing all those decades of commentating – I often think that they’re the people who can make the greatest claim to laying the foundation to the Ireland we all take so much for granted nowadays. But, of course, if you said this to them, they wouldn’t want the credit. That was the kind they were.

When someone passes on, it’s often said that we’ll never see their likes again – which is, of course, true, in that we’re all unique individuals – but that epitaph is more fitting than most to the late and so very great Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. May this incomparable Gael, who brought the joy of Gaelic games to life for so many for so long and did so much more besides, rest in peace.

25 thoughts on “RIP Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh

  1. Lovely tribute WJ , he was so easy to listen too whether commentating or story telling. May he RIP.

  2. The word legend is used a bit too often nowadays, but it surely applies here. That’s exactly what he was . I had the good luck of meeting him at my daughter’s school graduation, maybe 23/24 years ago in Maynooth. To be honest I was in awe of him. After a few words it all changed. He was asking me the questions. When I mentioned the village I was from in Mayo, sure he wouldn’t have known it, he said. Weren’t Dermot Earley’s family from there. RIP Micheal.

  3. Super tribute WJ to a truly super commentator. So different from some of the so called expert pundits from the present era who engage in criticism of players and teams to make themselves heard. Mícheál never had to engage in any such negative commentary. His reports and commentaries took into account the excellent skill levels and sportsmanship that he saw in the field in front of him. He even made unexciting games exciting and was so good on radio that you could visualise what was happening. He was aware of the closeness of the GAA to the community and though a Kerry man who saw his county do great things he was as interested and understanding of all counties and teams regardless of the success rate and fame. A great man has departed. He represented an age of respect and respectability and I am sure would have been appalled by some of the key board warriors who now find their minute of fame, usually anonymously, behind a screen.

  4. In Michael last ever commentary on All Ireland hurling final day..He started his commentary on the Artane Band as the teams marched behind..as the Band turned left around Hill 16 and marched west.. Mícheal said words to this effect. And the Band faces West towards Moytura..near Cong in County Mayo, where the first ever recorded hurling game took place..it was between The Fir Bologs and Tuath de Dannen.. they had a hurling match before Dinner and the Tuath de Dannen won… after dinner they had a War and the Tuath de Dannen won that as well….RIP.. Michael.

  5. What a gentleman, a true genius and he made time for everyone. They say that people remember you by how you treated them, so Micheal will live forever in our memories.

    I recall watching him training the Dublin-based Kerry and Mayo county lads and others out in UCD in the late seventies and eighties. He had them doing basic shooting practice from close in as part of their warm up for seriously tough and smart session. Those committed players learned a lot from Micheal and were arguably in better physical and mental shape than their teammates back at home.

    I also had the pleasure on an occasion of seeing how professional Micheal was about his work. He defined ‘detail’ and planned everything, so much so that what seemed like instinct, was often hard work, busy planning, and aiming to be as professional as possible.

    Heaven has gained a great richness. My sincere condolences to Micheal’s family and friends.
    Rest in Peace Micheal.

  6. Would it be a fitting tribute to our fallen hero to reinstate the All Ireland Minor finals to the same day as the Senior Finals and move both back to September?

  7. He taught a couple of future Dubs over the yrs I’m told. Not going to repeat my tribute except to concur with mayo67.

  8. A brilliant man from my part of the world.

    Somebody that made time for everyone.

    He was genuinely one of Kerrys greatest men.

    A voice of the summer and a man who’s legacy will live forever.

    RIP Micháel.

  9. Willie joe we where walking out of limerick that day totally drained from that game,michael and i think it was his son where walking in front of us when his son tapped him on the shoulder, we looked over to see a red caddy van towing a red and green father ted caravan with mayo for Sam 2014 on it,and he said jesus wouldn’t you feel for them.
    Rip Michael
    RIP Michael.

  10. Great man Michael himself and Michael O Hehir make Gaa what it’s to day rest in peace Michael

  11. He was a great man.
    In a video piece on great players Michael referenced that Paul Barden Longford might be the most complete footballer he ever saw.

  12. I had the totally random pleasure of meeting Michael in October 2021 in The Mater Hospital in Dublin. I had my Mayo Jersey on he was with his Wife and Son and I didnt want to intrude in any way as he sat in front of me.
    His Son said in Irish…there’s a fella behind you in a Mayo Jersey and he turned and said ”where in Mayo” and the conversation went from there as it often does. He talked about our hard luck and no luck and how one day we will cross the line.
    The last thing he said was ”ye never had a rogue, no ye never had one”.

    Afterwards I felt like I had met Ireland if that makes sense he was the embodiment of the nation.
    I wished I had another 10 mins of that conversation

  13. @FreeTheeastBank
    Love that story. I had the privilege of meeting the great man at a club dinner dance. He is a class act and an icon, and a huge loss to the GAA.

    The game could badly do with a positive voice again because as far as I can see all current commentary and analysis is relentlessly negative. Obviously negativity gets more clicks but I don’t know another sport that is so self-loathing.

    As I write this I see in front of me another Indo article from Martin Breheny where he has pre-emptively announced the upcoming quarter finals are going to be awful. He has made up his mind before the fact, just rampant negativity

    RIP Michael

  14. Yeah Supermac the negativity would sicken yer hole to be honest…….you get it in every walk of life……….constant pissing and moaning about everything and the truth is we have never had it so good

  15. What a wonderful character Mícheál was – his wonderful descriptive vocabulary, his unique voice and power of delivery , his “Kingdom Irishness” and above all his unselfish generous nature. Some years back I had invited him to do the presentations at a Ballintubber Club Dinner Dance. A member of the “bucket of cold water brigade” in the club warned me that he would cost “an arm and a leg”. But when it came to payment Mícháel waved aside all attempts at a cash payment. Surely a true Gael – and a broadcasting legend that together with the late Michael O Hehir will never be forgotten by all that were privileged to have their Sunday afternoons illuminated by those distinctive voices on Radio Eireann. Ar dheis De go raibh a nAinm.

  16. Outraged is right but that was later.
    He held the word Hollymount in his mouth like a sweet , and smiled and said something about grá and daoine I honestly felt I was having some very Earthly food in a little corner of Paradise.
    Beautiful Irish Beautiful manner.
    Dúiseacht le dúthracht le breacadh an lae.
    Not just on All-Ireland day but every day that you can.

  17. Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh quotes:

    “Seán Óg Ó hAilpín. His father’s from Fermanagh. His mother’s from Fiji. Neither a hurling stronghold.”

    “The stopwatch has stopped. It’s up to God and the referee now. The referee is Pat Horan. God is God.”

    “Teddy McCarthy to John McCarthy, no relation. John McCarthy to Teddy McCarthy, still no relation.”

    “Anthony Lynch, the Cork corner-back, will be the last person to let you down. His people are undertakers.”

    “1.5 to 0.8 – well, from Lapland to the Antarctic, that’s level scores in any man’s language.”

    “I saw a few Sligo people at Mass in Gardiner Street this morning and the omens seem to be good for them. The priest was wearing the same colours as the Sligo jersey. 40 yards out on the Hogan Stand side of the field, Ciarán Whelan goes on a rampage, and it’s a goal. So much for religion!”

    “Pat Fox out to the 40 and grabs the sliotar. I bought a dog from his father last week. Fox turns and sprints for goal. The dog ran a great race last Tuesday in Limerick. Fox to the 21, fires a shot, it goes to the left and wide. And the dog lost as well.”

    “He grabs the sliothar. He’s on the 50. He’s on the 40. He’s on the 30. He’s on the ground.”

    “Colin Corkery on the 45 lets it go with the right boot. It’s over the bar. This man shouldn’t be playing football. He’s made an almost Lazarus-like recovery from a heart condition. Lazarus was a great man, but he couldn’t kick points like Colin Corkery.”

    “Pat Fox has it on his hurl and is motoring well now, but here comes Joe Rabbitte hot on his tail. I’ve seen it all now, a Rabbitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park.”

    “He’s not a big man, he’s not a small man, he’s what you might call a handyman.”

    “Brian Dooher is down injured. And while he is, I’ll tell you a little story. I was in Times Square in New York last week, and I was missing the Championship back home. So I approached a newsstand, and I said, ‘I suppose ye wouldn’t have The Kerryman, would ya?’ To which, the Egyptian behind the counter turned to me, and he said, ‘Do you want the North Kerry edition or the South Kerry edition?’ He had both so I bought both. And Dooher is back on his feet.”

  18. Back when people were allowed have a sense of humour.. god be with the times.

  19. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, alas. When he was releasing his autobiography, he did a reading in the County Library in Castlebar, but alas it clashed with a college exam that I had up in Dublin the same day, so I couldn’t go. I always regretted it tbh.

    Funnily enough, aside from his work commentating on gaelic games, MOM gained a cult following internationally in recent years, when a video he did of making a sandwich went viral as an accidental ASMR video, of all things.

    Mícheál was the voice of Ireland, gaelic games and the auld ways which seem to be increasingly receding into the sands of time. He will be missed.

    Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

  20. I think Micheal’s love for the game through his own style of broadcasting probably get us deep into football, probably more than other person, he was a great Gael.
    I remember his poem was used in Gaa highlights maybe back in the late 1990s or early 2000s, this would be a great way to prepare a team for a final more than anything else.

    You could never get tired from listening to him on TV, very interesting person and just had his own unique way about him.

  21. On March 5th 1988 he presented the Saturday Live programme on RTE 1 his guests were the Priest in Glenroe & then President of Ireland Patrick Hillary. I would be nice if the full programme including original advert breaks was online.

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