We will probably never again see the likes of Weeshie Fogarty. He was an institution.
I started working in Radio Kerry in 2004. That’s how I got to know Weeshie.
The first game I covered with him was an under-20 football tournament in Duhallow. He made me feel very welcome coming on board. He just said, be comfortable, be your own man. Don’t mind that it’s live radio.
Weeshie enjoyed a great relationship on commentary with the late Liam Higgins. Both former Kerry seniors, they had played football together and were well respected by supporters and players.
It was a honour but also a baptism of fire for me to go in rubbing shoulders with these fellas. GAA and broadcasting legends. But Weeshie had that way of making you feel at ease.
He would never point out anything I did wrong and no doubt there were many things at the start. He’d just always say, you did great today, we did a good match.
It was a relaxed affair between us. We just bounced questions off each other. A couple of years back, you had Killarney Legion and South Kerry in a county final. Weeshie a Legion man and me South Kerry. But nobody accused us of being biased and we got a lot of compliments for that final. You gladly take all those.
When Liam died I got the job as the main commentator, alongside Weeshie. So we travelled the length and breadth of the country together. To drive from places like Kerry to Donegal or Derry and back with Weeshie was a privilege and an honour. The stories he had were just brilliant.
There wasn’t a ground we’d go where people didn’t know him. In Croke Park one day, he introduced me to Jimmy Magee and Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and they were all about Weeshie. Everyone knew him and he knew everyone. And everyone’s father and grandfather or great-grandfather.
Or nearly everyone. The odd time he’d have a great chat with some fella, and after I’d be asking him who was that, and he’d say he hadn’t a clue. But he still had great time for everyone. He’d never let on he didn’t know you.
When he wasn’t with me in the last couple of years, when it was mainly myself and Ambrose O’Donovan, everyone would come up and ask, ‘how is Weeshie, how is he keeping?’.
He was an influential voice in Kerry football. I thought he was very fair analyst. He never really came down too hard on a player; it was always a collective thing. His column for the Kerryman was always astute too, and I’d often get a sneak preview of it when we discussed a match on the long journey home.
The fact he played the game at a high level made a huge difference. He was a fine goalkeeper, played junior and senior for Kerry and probably came through at just the wrong time.
He was understudy to the great Johnny Culloty, his own friend from Legion.
Weeshie even has an All-Ireland medal, though it’s an unofficial one. I remember him saying it to be once. The difference from an official medal is there’s no GAA crest on the back of it.
But it wasn’t only on GAA he was an encyclopedia of knowledge. He’d talk rugby ‘til the cows come home.
He was a huge Manchester United man, often visited Old Trafford, and he interviewed former United players many times on his Terrace Talkprogramme.
In his heyday he was a great basketball player in Killarney. And when his football career finished, he was a selector and coach and a very good inter-county referee.
He just loved sport and loved radio.
I was in awe of him really and admired everything he did for radio. It was a dream and a pleasure and an honour to say I knew Weeshie Fogarty, and even more of an honour to say I worked with him The word legend is bandied about too often, but he was a genuine GAA legend.
Terrace Talk was a phenomenon, with a worldwide audience.
But in a funny way, I almost preferred his other Radio Kerry show, In Conversation, on Wednesday nights.
He could be talking to anyone, maybe someone launching a book or in the news for some reason.
Some great characters. And he’d always get the best out of them. He was great interviewer. Like a snooker player, he’d be always three questions ahead.
But more importantly, he was so natural. It was like you were sitting up on a barstool having a pint with Weeshie. Or having a cup of tea and a sandwich with him. Whether you were working with him or being interviewed by him, he made everyone feel at ease.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.