I HAD the privilege last week of attending one of the most enjoyable events in quite some time. The occasion was a tribute night organised by Raidió na Gaeltachta to honour the incomparable Mícheál O Muircheartaigh.
Guests came from far and wide to share their yarns, their thoughts and their memories of a lifetime’sachievement in broadcasting.
It was a night of reflection and of genuine warmth where all contributors spoke eloquently of the Dún Síon man’s contribution to Irish life. But I believe the person who best captured the mood of the night was a former colleague of Mícheál’s in Nuacht RTÉ, Pádraig O Gaora.
He said the gods granted O Muircheartaigh the unique gift of a 48-hour day whereas other mere mortals had to be satisfied with 24. Mícheál has time for everybody and that, allied to his deep love of sport, believed O Gaora, is why he always has something to be happy about. Driving home from Galway after the event I began to reflect upon those words and, as I assessed my own relationship with Mícheál O Muircheartaigh, I remembered one of the countless times I had met him over the years – in Dublin last July 12 months.
We were both attending a funeral in Mount Jerome and Mícheál, hearing that I had come up earlier by train and recognising my obvious need to get back to Heuston pronto for the 1pm train, decided to have a bit of fun.
Upon accepting an offer of a lift to Kingsbridge from the Godfather of all things Kerry in Dublin, we made our way out of the cemetery after about 20 introductions to different people who had also attended the service. As we pulled into the car-park in Heuston, Mícheál suggested we had plenty of time for a cup of tea.
Ignoring the fact there was a heavy downpour and I was getting quite anxious about the time, we walked slowly to the café near the departure gates at the station where I got two cups of tea and “something in the line of a bun” as requested by Mícheál.
Over the course of the next few minutes we proceeded to go through in great detail the trials and tribulations of the Kerry team, who were at that time struggling to find their game. I sat enchanted as Mícheál regaled and reassured me with stories and anecdotes of how great Kerry teams had in the past wrestled with their game only to emerge stronger and as the last drops of tea drained from our cups, it was time to go.
I made my train with about 10 seconds to spare and no more.
Sitting as the train pulled out of the platform, it suddenly dawned on me perhaps the Muircheartach copped all of my uneasy glances at the clock and that his sense of humour and mischief demanded he push the boat out.
Maybe too, as Pádraig O Gaora said last Friday, that the man who has stitched himself into the seconds and minutes of the Irish Sunday operates in a different dimension where time carries no real currency.
Not for him the rushing and racing, the deadlines, the time constraints and the bothersome limits of the hoi polloi. Mícheál relishes, nay, consumes every minute in everybody’s company and his bilingual stream-of-consciousness observations on a Sunday are but natural extensions of his genuine interest in conversations during the week. Like many other Kerry players, I had an endless amount of superstitions and lucky charms on big match days. Towards the end of my career Croke Park became a place where everything was neatly packaged and streamlined, where security men and stewards of various guises maintained the streamlined homogeneity that is common in today’s game.
It was constantly a source of endless amusement to me that Mícheál O Muircheartaigh often seemed to rise above the constraints and always managed to gain entry into dressing rooms in those tense minutes before the big matches. For me, seeing Mícheál’s kindly face inside the dressing room door was always a message of hope, a piseóg of promise and a sign that we were home.
And so, when the not unexpected announcement came yesterday, the man who made GAA emotion become sound and sound become emotion was to tell us no more of what happened on the field after Sunday next, it was indeed time to bring to mind the words so often heard from Mícheál himself “Cá mbeimís gan spórt?” Where would we be without sport and diversion?
Mícheál is the wonder-eye that is in all of us when viewing our own games and maybe it is appropriate that we ask – cá mbeimíd gan Mícheál?
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