Farewell to a 'national treasure': Bill O'Herlihy's greatest TV moments

Farewell to a 'national treasure': Bill O'Herlihy's greatest TV moments

Tributes are being paid to Bill O'Herlihy who passed away this morning.

In a statement this afternoon, the Taoiseach said Bill became a "national treasure" in his role as RTÉ's main sports presenter. He said he will miss his friend and described Bill as the "quintessential decent Irish man".

President Michael D Higgins says Bill made a remarkable contribution to journalism, public relations and broadcasting over 60 years and that his rapport with sports fans all around the country was legendary.

Farewell to a 'national treasure': Bill O'Herlihy's greatest TV moments

Bill O’Herlihy’s last broadcast was the World Cup final in July, a fitting end to the career of a man who was a fixture in our living rooms for as long as a lot of us can remember.

As the presenter on RTÉ Soccer he gave us some fantastic moments to treasure as he managed the show, asking the questions to get the panel started and then reining them in when they went too far.

Farewell to a 'national treasure': Bill O'Herlihy's greatest TV moments

During the coverage of the World Cup in Brazil, he gave us a classic line of understatement when he referred to Eamon Dunphy repeatedly swearing live on air as a little “inexactitude”.

Interviewed before his retirement on RTÉ, O’Herlihy reminisced on the programme’s beginning, and in particular Italia ‘90, which he said “changed everything”.

“Up until then people might have been watching the BBC or ITV to a greater extent.”

He felt the reason that the RTÉ coverage struck such a chord is that the station understood that the World Cup meant more than sport to Ireland in 1990.

“This was not just a tournament, this was a national event.”

As the boys celebrated the shoot-out against Romania, excitement levels ran so high Bill was able to confirm RTE were postponing ‘Home and Away’.

However even in those heady days the panel were never far from controversy and it took all of O’Herlihy’s mildness and diplomacy to smooth the troubled waters.

Here RTE’s Second Captains look back at the infamous “pen-throwing” incident.

Before leaving RTE behind, O’Herlihy also spoke of his long-standing panellists – John Giles, Liam Brady, and Eamon Dunphy.

Farewell to a 'national treasure': Bill O'Herlihy's greatest TV moments

“I will miss them very badly”, he said, “I’ve had great fun over the years.”

Of course it was not always plain sailing. Back in May 2011 Bill found himself in the unusual position of having the three members of the panel gang up on him.

Since 1998 Bill and all the panel had been brilliantly spoofed by the Apres Match team and in 2014 Bill finally met his alter-ego on The Late Late show.

O’Herlihy said that he felt that his role on the show was to represent the viewer and put forward the questions he felt they would ask.

However sometimes even he couldn’t match the Irish fans’ level of optimism and struggled to keep a straight face when presented with a poll suggesting 87% of viewers thought Ireland would win their opening game of Euro 2012.

Truly a national treasure, he will be sorely missed.

We’ll leave the last word to the man himself on his retirement.

“I have loved every minute of it but the time has come for me to stand down. I leave with no regrets at all."

RIP Bill.

Read more: Eamon Dunphy pays respect to ‘great friend’ Bill O’Herlihy

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