VETERAN SPORTS BROADCASTER Jimmy Magee has died after a long illness.
Magee, much-beloved for his avuncular ‘Memory Man’ persona, was 82 and one of the world’s longest-serving sports broadcasters.
Over a career spanning more than 60 years, he commentated on a wide variety of sports, including boxing, soccer, and gaelic games, most notably for his long-term employer RTÉ.
The announcement has led to an outpouring of tributes from those who knew him across the spectrum of Irish life.
“It was my pleasure to know him and work with him. I’ll miss him terribly,” said RTÉ Morning Ireland host Gavin Jennings earlier this morning.
“It’s an incredibly sad day,” RTÉ’s head of sport Ryle Nugent later told the same programme, adding that he was “in awe” of Magee’s abilities as a commentator.
“To travel with him, he was unbelievable craic,” said Sunday Game host and fellow RTÉ sport denizen Des Cahill.
He was a pure rogue for getting a laugh going with a group on a trip away.
President Michael D Higgins said that Magee’s contribution to sports broadcasting was “immense”.
He reported on some of the most iconic sporting moments in sport but also had a genuine interest in the human side of everyday sports.
“Sabina and I express our condolences to his daughters and son, his wider family and friends. He will be missed by all those who appreciate and care for the world of sports.”
Born in New York in 1935, Magee and his three siblings grew up in Cooley, County Louth.
In an interview on The Late Late Show in 2012, Magee said it was during this time that he fell in love with the idea of broadcasting; legendary Gaelic games commentator Michael O’Hehir being a particular influence.
At the age of 11, he wrote to RTÉ looking for a job. They politely declined but told him they would keep his application on file.
When he did eventually enter the workforce, Magee worked first as a chemist and then in a full-time clerical role with British Rail.
However, when the latter ceased operations in the Republic of Ireland in 1951, the then 16-year-old saw it as an opportunity to fulfill his broadcasting dream.Source: killianM2/YouTube
“It was the beginning of my new life because I knew what I wanted to do,” he told the Irish Independent in 2015.
It took some time, and it wasn’t until 1956 that he landed his first gig reporting on a hockey game for the RTÉ Radio programme, Junior Sports Magazine.
Magee progressed through the ranks quickly, however and covered his first major international tournament for the state broadcaster at the 1966 World Cup.
Indeed, he commentated on every edition of football’s global showpiece up until 2010 in South Africa, and his commentary on Maradona’s solo goal against England in 1986 will live long in the memory.Source: Rouf Bin Omer/YouTube
Magee is also widely remembered for his role in RTÉ’s Olympic coverage, particularly boxing, and commentated on every Games between 1968 and 2016.
He was honoured by the International Olympic Committee for services to the Games in 2012, when he was presented with a specially commissioned replica of the Olympic torch.
Between 1987 and 1998, Magee co-hosted the quiz show Know Your Sport alongside George Hamilton where his legend as Ireland’s ‘Memory Man’ grew and was still broadcasting into his 80s, launching a series called Jimmy’s Heroes on Irish TV in 2015.
Magee is survived by his children Linda, Mark, June and Patricia. He was predeceased by his son Paul and wife Marie, who died in 1989.
With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald and Cianan Brennan