People hung by the radio waiting for his voice to tell them if their county had won or lost.
And for 58 years he held the vital information that the country’s GAA fans longed to hear. But yesterday, aged 89, Séan Óg Ó Ceallacháin passed away. Having made his name as a legendary broadcaster with RTÉ he achieved worldwide distinction presenting his Sunday night GAA results programme for almost six decades.
Séan Óg, who took over the role from his father, also played inter-county hurling for Dublin for 10 years from 1943, lining out in the 1948 All-Ireland final and numbering Mick Mackey and Christy Ring among his opponents.
President Michael D. Higgins led the tributes to the Limerick native, acknowledging him as one of the finest broadcasters of his generation.
“As a bilingual broadcaster and writer he made an outstanding contribution to the use of our native language in sports commentary,” he said.
GAA President Liam O’Neill added that his passing represented “an enormous loss” to the Association. “He was a true GAA man and had one of the most recognised voices in GAA circles in the country,” he added.
In 1946, Séan Óg was a member of the last Dublin team to contest a league final prior to the 2011 team which triumphed over Kilkenny. His brother Seamus also played on the same team with him. Two years later he played in the All-Ireland final, which marked the first of Waterford’s two title wins, and missed the 1952 decider against Cork with a broken jaw.
He was born in Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick where his father found employment with Nash’s after the mineral water firm’s premises, where he worked in Dublin, was burnt down during the troubles. The family only spent a few years in Limerick before returning to the capital.
At his retirement party in RTÉ two years ago, he was presented with a jersey. Half of it had the Limerick crest and the other half sported the Dublin crest! He started his club career with St Vincents, but subsequently joined Eoghan Ruadhs. He played against Mick Mackey in a challenge game in Croke Park against the Limerick champions Ahane.
“We were leading by two points with a minute to go and Mackey got the ball, barged his way through. I can tell you he knew he was going through a hail of thunder and lightning… he was belted on all sides but still stuck the ball in the net,” he recalled.
In later years he played against Christy Ring, in the league.
“He was one of the best hurlers I played against even though I was at midfield and he was right half-forward. But we did meet down in Fermoy when he played at midfield and I was marking him. In my mind he was the greatest of them all.”
Séan Óg was a respected columnist with the Evening Press and wrote several books, including Greatest Sporting Memories and Tall Tales and Banter.
RTÉ Director-General Noel Curran described him as a “legend in sports broadcasting. His passing will be acknowledged by the many thousands of listeners for whom Sean Óg’s Sunday night broadcasts were an essential part of Sundays.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved