Ageing with attitude: Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh on importance of looking forward

The legendary GAA commentator won’t let age slow him down.

Ageing with attitude: Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh on importance of looking forward

Rowena Walsh talks to Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh who believes in looking forward, particularly when it comes to golf and the new GAA season

The legendary GAA commentator won’t let age slow him down. Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh may be in his ninetieth year, but the legendary GAA commentator shows no sign of slowing down.

His unmistakable voice is as full of life as ever as he describes how he’s already looking forward to February 1, 2020, and the start of the new GAA season.

His enthusiasm won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has listened to ‘the voice of Gaelic games’ during his six decades of broadcasting. Mícheál may have retired in 2010, but his love of the game remains undimmed and his passion for life shines through.

“I never worry about anything,” he says. The passing years don’t bother him at all. He may be 89 — “so they say” is his reply when asked — but age is simply a number to this force of nature.

He climbs Mount Brandon every year, continues to play golf whenever and wherever he can, and is currently working with My Legacy, an umbrella group of 65 Irish charities, which encourages people to leave money in their will to a charity they care about.

Charity has always been close to Mícheál’s heart. Years ago, when he was in Dublin, he got involved with St Vincent de Paul. “I saw the poverty of the place. We paid special attention to the older people who might be living alone and ever since then I had a great time for charities.”

The Dingle-born, father of eight and grandfather of 14 believes in staying active and has words of wisdom for those people who tell him they’re retiring soon.

I say do not retire to do nothing, retire with some aim, and then get involved. Be active

He is a man of his word. The native Irish speaker may have hung up his microphone, but he continues to travel the country for sports and charitable endeavours. He travels outside the country too. He has been to the Melbourne Cup in Australia twice, gone horse-racing in America and Germany, and attended the Asian GAA Games in Shanghai.

Still a keen golfer, he says he may not play as well as he did 40 years ago, but that doesn’t matter.

You play, it gets you out, it’s hellish fun and you meet a lot of people

He says he insisted on playing golf wherever he travelled, even at the North Pole, when he brought some of his grandchildren to Lapland. “I wanted to say that I hit golf balls in the North Pole.”

He climbs Mount Brandon every year and enjoyed a particularly memorable trek in 2005 with Kerry captain Dara Ó Cinnéide who wanted to bring the Sam Maguire cup “to the top of Mount Brandon and show it to St Brendan”.

At the summit, Ó Cinnéide picked a horse shamrock (seamrog Mhuire) — “If you get it on a mountain, it’s a sign that you’re on the right road, you’re not lost, you’ve not gone astray.”

Mícheál is certainly on the right road for a healthy life. He has never drunk alcohol, counts porridge and brown bread as two of his favourite foods.

He gave up cigarettes many years ago, though he was an early adopter of tobacco.

“I was smoking at the age of two years, by accident really,” he says.

“There was a wake next door, and the custom that time was to have pipes full of tobacco left on the window outside. It was bad luck if you didn’t light one up and smoke it going inside. Myself and my brother were looking at this happening and we thought everyone had to do it. We went and got a pipe each, got matches and lit up. It didn’t do us any harm.

“I smoked for a good while but, at that time, there was no talk that smoking was bad. The moment I heard that it was, I never caught one in my hand ever since.

Mícheál continues to look ahead in life. “I’d be looking forward now to the weather clearing and a few games of golf. As soon as the first of February comes, it will be all the teams out again. I’ll be looking forward to that, speculating about them and so on. I think that’s a great remedy for anything.”

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