The world of sports broadcasting is in mourning today after legendary RTE Sports commentator Jimmy Magee passed away, aged 82, after an illness.
Magee is famed as one of the most recognisable voices and faces on Irish radio and television over the last six decades. He first started at the national broadcaster in 1956 and commentated on 10 Olympic Games and 11 World Cups in his time with Raidio Teleifis Eireann.
Born in New York City but raised in the Cooley and Greenore areas of Louth, Magee – known as the ‘Memory Man’ – is familiar to sports fans and viewers all across Ireland further afield too. He first put his voice to Olympic Games coverage in 1972 and covered every games through to 2012, concluding with Katie Taylor’s famous gold medal win in London. He was known in particular for boxing, cycling and athletics.
Magee was the man at the microphone when Argentina famously beat England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, in the match which saw Diego Maradona score the ‘Hand of God’ goal and then, minutes later, one of the great World Cup goals of all-time (below).
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) September 20, 2017
The legendary broadcaster obviously has many ties with Louth having grown up in the county but he also his links to Ardee. His son Paul lived in the town prior to his death in 2008. Paul lived with Motor Neurone Disease until his passing. Paul worked in public relations for Dundalk-based Boylesports and was also a part-time racing broadcaster with RTÉ while also having a prominent role in the world of golf.
He also played soccer with Shamrock Rovers and was part of an international tenpin bowling team for more than 30 years, serving as captain and manager. Paul became one of the first people in Ireland to become a donor to the brain bank in Beaumont Hospital after he died in 2008.
Dad Jimmy released a charity single – a cover of These Old Eyes Have Seen It All – in 2014 to raise money for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Well known in GAA circles, Magee was also in Ardee for the funeral of local Gaelic Football star and musician Dermot O’Brien in St Marys Church of the Nativity in Ardee in 2007. He told the congregation at the funeral mass, “When I visited Dermot in hospital a few weeks ago, he asked me to speak at his funeral. I said I would but only if he promised to speak at mine if I went first.”
ThisIsArdee.ie editor Barry Landy is a member of the Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland, an association which Jimmy remained a member until his death. He says that Jimmy was a warm, funny and inspirational figure.
“As a young sports journalist, my early days attending events and matches at venues such as Croke Park and Aviva Stadium were often punctuated by stopping and staring in awe at renowned giants of Irish sports broadcasting and journalism. Jimmy was a figure I had the pleasure of frequently bumping into in press areas and I will forever remember the warmth he embodied and his friendly nature.
“A shy lad who wouldn’t know what to say to such a revered and well-known figure, Jimmy was an expert at breaking the ice, starting a conversation and talking about what he loved – sport,” Barry continued. “He made me feel important and part of something, inviting me and others in from the periphery and engaging with us all. When he spoke, you listened. It was an honour to be in his company, even briefly.”
SWAI President Mark McCadden also paid tribute to the legendary sporting broadcaster today. “Jimmy Magee was always a voice of calm and measure in our often feisty debates. Despite the array of stars from the world of football that would attend our annual banquet, guests would invariably seek out Jimmy for a photo and a chat.
“I speak for our entire membership when I describe as an honour the sharing of a press box and our association with the great Jimmy Magee. He will be greatly missed.”