Many households would watch football and hurling matches on silent televisions while listening to the iconic broadcaster’s commentary on the radio.
But as political and sporting leaders lined up to pay homage to the Kerry man, he insisted that much of the praise for his 62 years of broadcasting was overstated.
“It makes me feel humble really when people go to the trouble and I would say it may be exaggerated,” he said. “I don’t take myself too seriously and I don’t expect others to take me too seriously.”
President Mary McAleese praised “a brilliant voice and ferocious enthusiasm obviously for Gaelic games that was able to transmit through his commentaries.
“Most of us listened because not only was the commentary always brilliant and exciting and accurate, but you just never knew what was coming next.”
Announcing his retirement yesterday, the much-loved broadcaster said Sunday’s All-Ireland football final between Cork and Down will be his last.
“I have always regarded my long association with RTÉ, broadcasting Gaelic Games, as a massive privilege; it brought the national broadcaster and the GAA together from the time 2RN went on the air in 1926,” he told RTÉ Radio.
O Muircheartaigh first took to the airwaves to commentate on the Railway Cup final as Gaeilge in 1949. This Sunday, his commentary for the 114th All-Ireland Senior Football Final will mark his 25th final.
Christy Cooney, GAA president, said O Muircheartaigh had made a huge contribution to the promotion of Gaelic Games.
“It is no exaggeration to say that he has been the definitive voice of the GAA in homes and clubs for over six decades,” he said.
“His grá for an Ghaeilge often shines through in his commentary and his attention to detail, recall and natural passion for our games has helped portray the very essence of what makes football and hurling so appealing to legions of supporters, not only in every corner of Ireland but all the way around the globe.”
Ironically, O Muircheartaigh was one of the characters Taoiseach Brian Cowen was reported as mimicking at the gathering in Galway for which he found himself chastised in the media this week. But Mr Cowen did not let that stop him from paying tribute to what he called one of the most popular and admired figures in Irish life.
“He has brought pleasure and excitement into the lives of millions of GAA supporters,” said Mr Cowen.
The Taoiseach also congratulated the presenter on his great service to the Irish people.
“His enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for Gaelic games are unrivalled.”