He Held The Nation Spellbound On Sundays

Míceál O'Hehir - 1920 - 1996

Magic Of His Commentaries Was Awaited With Great Anticipation On Sundays All Over Ireland

 

Bail Ó Dhia Oraibh a Cáirde Gael

This legendary Irish phrase roused fans of gaelic games all over Ireland to hastily find a tidy kitchen parlour for sixty minutes of fervour and passion, as the nations number one sports broadcaster blasted out radio bouts of drama and thrills from gaelic grounds all over Ireland.

 

Ireland of the 1940's and 50's was a nation immersed in the passion of hurling and football only.

Michael O'Hehir was the eyes and ears of all listeners on every Sunday.

Irish homes that were privileged to own a radio were besieged by neighbours from far and near, to listen in to the thrilling match commentaries from all over Ireland and none moreso than on All Ireland final days in September.

 

Michael O'Hehir made his maiden gaelic games broadcast from Cusack Park, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

The occasion was the All Ireland Senior Football Championship semi final between Galway and Monaghan.

The date was October 14th 1938 and the Connacht champions won on a scoreline of 2 - 10 to 2 - 3 and then went on to beat Kerry in the final 2 - 4 to 0 - 7.

 

The first ever broadcast of a gaelic games match was in 1926. The commentator was a Corkman,

Mr. P.J. Mehigan and the match was the All Ireland hurling semi final between Kilkenny and Galway and the Noresmen triumphed  6 - 2 to 5 - 1.

 

Michael O'Hehir was the eyes of G.A.A. fans all through the decades since his inaugural 1938 broadcast, and this continued for many years, long after the inception of television transmissions of live games in the 1960s.

 

Michael O'Hehir brought sporting sparkle and tension into Irish homes on big match days. Families in rural districts always ensured that the wireless battery was fully charged prior to Sunday broadcasts.

Fans without a wireless went to a neighbours house to listen to the great man and he held listeners in the psalm of his hand and especially when describing the dropping ball in around the house.

Many dead and dull games were devoid of action and skill, but the famous broadcaster still brought the game into homes full of vigour and emotion.

 

His exploits on Grand National day at Aintree also became legendary and Irish listeners only had ears for their own maestro. He took great  pride when Irish champion horses,  Early Mist, Quare Times and E.S.B. won the Grand National and this great racing festival was boomed annually into Irish homes.

 

When televisions were introduced into almost every Irish home in the 1970s, a new respect for Michael O'Hehir emerged. All Ireland semi finals and finals gave a glimpse of another chapter in sports broadcasting as RTE anchored their presentations with Michael O'Hehir at the helm.

 

His retirement and sad demise through health, brought about a rapid decline in the quality and passion of G.A.A. sports commentary, as a plethora of new pretenders failed to recapture any semblance of verve and spirit, so essential for sports broadcasting.

 

Michael's broadcasting colleague in gaelic games, Miceál O'Muirheartaigh, of similar vintage, went on to become a broadcasting icon with a singular charm and wit reserved only for the greatest.

 

END