I’ve shared a living room with Bill O’Herlihy many times over the last 20 plus years and boy will I miss him now he’s gone.
O’Herlihy presented RTE’s football coverage since the 1970s and last Sunday, at the age of 75, he decided to bow out.
Germany had just beaten Argentina in the final of the World Cup but O’Herlihy stole the show with his emotional message of gratitude where he said farewell.
If you’re a Republic of Ireland fan or indeed a football fan, you’ll know it’s virtually impossible to dislike O’Herlihy. Anyone who shares a studio with Eamon Dunphy for over 30 years and emerges with his sanity is someone quite remarkable indeed.
O’Herlihy’s broadcasting style was unique and although sports fans are now more used to more well polished presenters there can be no underestimating just how engaging, warm and jovial Bill always was.
One of the best weapons in the O’Herlihy arsenal was the way in which he played devil’s advocate.
But not only O’Herlihy did he play devil’s advocate, he took great delight in pulling the legs of pundits such as Dunphy and Liam Brady.
O’Herlihy was like a hand grenade wielding stirrer. He’d throw the proverbial hand grenade across the table to John Giles, Brady and Dunphy and they’d proceed to argue with one another as O’Herlihy sat on the sideline smiling like a Cheshire cat as the explosive debate ensued.
The contemporary sports broadcasters couldn’t lace O’Herlihy’s boots.
The BBC’s Gary Lineker is tolerable but the less said about God-awful Adrian Chiles the better.
Unlike the likes of Chiles, Lineker et al, O’Herlihy didn’t pretend to know all there is to know about football, instead he was extremely entertaining and despite his best efforts to wind his colleagues up his decency always came to the fore.
I suppose the main reason why so many of us will us O’Herlihy so much is because he shared in the ups and the many downs of Irish international football over the years.
When I think of the Republic of Ireland at a World Cup or a European Championship O’Herlihy is one of the names that immediately jumps out.
I remember when I was in Poland in 2012 to watch Ireland at the Euros. You wouldn’t believe the number of Ireland fans keen to find out what the likes of O’Herlihy were saying about the performances back home.
It’s easy to discredit the likes of O’Herlihy and his co-stars Giles, Dunphy and Brady but one thing was always guaranteed when watching them and that was that they made many feel passionately about football.
It looks like O’Herlihy will be replaced by the brilliant Darragh Maloney.
Maloney is an excellent sports broadcaster and his knowledge of football is top class but that’s not to say we all won’t miss O’Herlihy.
It’s to be expected because when you’ve been part of something as big as RTE football broadcasting for as long as O’Herlihy has you build up a relationship with the viewers.
O’Herlihy is gone and I can’t wait to tune in to see how Maloney handles the terrible triplets, Dunphy, Giles and Brady but one thing’s for sure RTE’s football coverage will never be the same again.
Oakey doke - we’ll leave it there so.