MOMENTS after the final-whistle blew at Croke Park yesterday, signalling the end to the Rebels’ 20-year football title famine, Micheál O Muircheartaigh stood out of his familiar seat in gantry for the last time on All-Ireland final day.
Yesterday the curtain fell on the Dun Sion man’s career – but not before an encore for those of us listening in Ireland and beyond.
Indeed, as the ball is thrown in, Micheál informs us that Micky Joe Padden is listening in the city of Budapest. And so we begin on a last journey around the globe with the Kerryman as our guide, introducing us to old friends in every corner of the world.
After seven minutes, while Down earn an earn foothold in the game, he throws another shout-out to “Dr Fintan O’Rourke and his wife in Sydney – everyone in Warrenpoint is hoping they’ll get good reception below in Sydney.”
And later, when a listener in another Australian city is given a late Sunday night jolt with a mention, he segues neatly into a tribute for another GAA hero: “When you think of Melbourne, you think of Jim Stynes and I believe he’s battling illness very well indeed – and good wishes to him and all the Stynes, indeed.”
Half way through the first half, Marty Clarke lines up a free kick – and we’re teased with an unfinished anecdote.
“He’ll be known as the man who came home from Australia. Just like the man who used to come home to the Dingle races – a very famous man – from South Africa... and Marty Clarke drops it over the bar.”
We never found out who the man who travelled from Jo’Burg to west Kerry was. Answers on a postcard.
While geography has always marked afternoons with O Muircheartaigh, so too has genealogy: think his famous evocation of Seán Óg O hAilpín’s roots (“his father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold”). Yesterday as Cork’s young guns raided forward, we were reminded of one Nemo man’s pedigree.
“Paul Kerrigan – son of the man who won an All-Ireland, Jimmy of course – kicks the point that puts Cork in front.”
But O Muircheartaigh comes into his own – like the best Kerry teams – at a championship’s denouement when his frantic metre is in sync with the excitement around him in the stands and on the pitch unrolled at his feet.
So it was yesterday as the curtain was about to fall on his life in the gantry.
“Wherever you are – Johnny Crowley from Dunmanway, of all places he’s listening to the match in... Dunmanway. And Noel O’Leary was very harshly treated by the referee there,” he says, as the pace picks up on the pitch.
“The stewards are taking their end-of-match positions,” we’re told after Coulter’s late point makes it a two-point game (“the most dangerous lead of all”) to a resurgent Cork again, as he, too prepares for the end.
Cork close it out with little fuss – just like the Kerryman calling the plays – who later bridles at Con Murphy’s suggestion he be named man of the match.
Sár mhaith, Micheál. Go n-éirí an bóthar leat.
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