Tributes pour in for ‘giant of Irish broadcasting’ Bill O’Herlihy

Tributes have poured in for Bill O’Herlihy, one of the giants of Irish broadcasting, who passed away yesterday morning.

The 76-year-old died peacefully in his family home in Dublin, less than a year after he finally stepped down from his role as the leading sports anchor on RTÉ following the soccer World Cup final.

His death sparked an outpouring from those who knew him and worked with over the decades, through his role as an RTÉ journalist and sports broadcaster, to his colleagues in the world of public relations, and beyond.

In a peerless career that spanned almost five decades, he presented 10 World Cups for RTÉ and 10 Olympic Games, while he also presented the first Rugby World Cup on RTÉ television and co-presented the very first Sunday Game in 1979.

Born in Cork City, he began his career aged 16 and started working with the then Cork Examiner, later moving to RTÉ’s current affairs division, before becoming a central figure in the broadcaster’s sports output.

Eamon Dunphy, his long-time foil on the RTÉ football panel, paid a tearful tribute to his former colleague, declaring that O’Herlihy was “by far the most important person on that panel”.

His voice cracking with emotion on RTÉ’s News At One programme, Dunphy said of his friend: “He was a fantastic broadcaster and very, very nice man, a decent man, and great fun.”

On the same programme, former Fine Gael adviser Frank Flannery said O’Herlihy was an “absolutely indomitable proud Corkman”.

Tributes were led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who had attended the launch of O’Herlihy’s autobiography in 2012.

Mr Kenny said: “In his role in RTÉ sport, Bill O’Herlihy was central to many of Ireland’s international sporting occasions and became a national treasure.

“On a personal level, Bill and I have been good friends for many years and I will miss his friendship and support. He was the quintessential decent, kind and generous Irish man.

“I extend my deepest condolences to Bill’s beloved wife Hillary, daughters Jill and Sally and his grandchildren on their great loss.”

President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute, outlining the many skills which made O’Herlihy a much-loved broadcaster and adding: “It was his unique capacity for humour which he used to connect with diverse audiences, which made him so special.”

Noel Curran, director general of RTÉ, said people at the station were devastated at O’Herlihy’s passing and revealed he had been working on a new programme.

Describing him as a “giant of the sporting and broadcasting worlds”, Mr Curran said O’Herlihy’s contribution to Irish broadcasting was “utterly unique”.

“For decades he was at the centre of some of Ireland’s greatest sporting moments. He never hid his emotions on those big occasions, from disappointment to utter joy, and for this he was greatly loved. But he was also a fantastic broadcaster and interviewer, getting the very best out of his interview panels and provoking debate and insight, and for this he was also hugely admired.”

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