Seán Creedon looks back on the life and career of the man who was ‘the voice of the GAA’ for more than six decades on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
During the recent coronavirus lockdown there were a lot of sporting replays in the newspapers, radio and television. Among the many people featured in look backs was legendary GAA and horse racing commentator Micheál O’Hehir, who was born 100 years ago in June, 1920.
On RTÉ’s Sunday Sport programme Barry O’Neill produced a fitting tribute to O’Hehir over two weekends. Also Marty Morrissey spoke to former Kerry footballer Jack O’Shea and historian Paul Rouse on O’Hehir’s legacy.
O’Shea said that when he kicked a football against the gable wall of his parents house in Caherciveen he felt he was one of the inter-county stars that O’Hehir talked about in his match commentaries every Sunday.
Paul Rouse took us back to rural Ireland in the forties and fifties when people gathered in a house that had a radio. Often the radio would be put out on the window sill so that neighbours out in the yard could hear commentaries from places like The Athletic Grounds in Cork, Tuam Stadium or Croke Park.
Indeed I remember Jack Sullivan, a neighbour of mine in Kerry, who would save his ‘wet battery’ for Sunday afternoons by using his radio sparingly during the week.
The iconic broadcaster was also remembered in John Bowman’s Sunday morning programme on RTÉ Radio 1 where Radio Kerry’s Weeshie Fogarty mentioned the exotic sounding Radio Brazzaville, which was one of the stations that took RTÉ commentaries of big games in the sixties.
O’Hehir’s parents were both from Clare; his father Jim Hehir from Ballynacally and his mother Esther (Sheehan) hailed from Newmarket-on-Fergus. Micheál was an only child and their home on Ormond Road, Drumcondra, was a strong GAA household.
Jim Hehir, who worked in the Department of Local Government, trained the Clare hurling team to win the 1914 All-Ireland hurling final and he also trained the Leitrim football team when they won the Connacht championship in 1927.
Micheál attended Holy Faith Convent and St Patrick’s National School in Drumcondra, then moved on to the famous O’Connell Schools on the North Richmond Street for his secondary education. After completing his Leaving Certificate he started a course in electric engineering at UCD, but quit after one year to concentrate on his broadcasting career.
In a radio interview, Micheál said that he never played a game of Gaelic football in his life, but admitted he was a useful hurler with the St Vincent’s club. As a teenager he was fascinated with radio and according to his son Peter loved to ‘experiment’ with radio equipment.