Brendan Boylan remembers his encounters with legendary sports commentator the late, great Jimmy Magee
One summer’s evening over a quarter century ago, whilst out for an evening stroll – my wonderful mother doing the walking, me observing from the cockpit – Brendan Reilly was encountered close to his family home. The Reilly homestead being close to St Peter’s GAA Club, enquiries were made as to why there was a big crowd up around the field.
The Jimmy Magee All-Stars were in town, I was told. Now, I’d no idea who they were, or what the whole idea was about, but once I heard the great man was in the vicinity the wheelchair wasn’t being pointed anywhere else.
To this day, the only two participants I can recall from the hilarious fundraiser – proceeds from which went to the wonderful Sr Stan (Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy) to aid her efforts with the homeless – were ‘Brush’ Shiels and the late Noel Keating, founder of Kepak, and friend to Meath football and so much and many more.
Blessedly, ‘Brush’ and I crossed paths several times over the years, but that was the only occasion on which the wonderful Clare man with the unforgettable sideburns was encountered in person. At the time, greatest angst centered on not being allowed venture to The County Club for the cabaret thereafter.
The blow thereof, however, was softened considerably once another rendezvous with gentleman Jimmy was secured before being homeward bound. Yes, another. You see, through the kindness of my fourth class teacher, John Moriarty, yours truly was the recipient of a McDonald’s Child Of Achievement Award – actually earlier that year (1992).
On arrival at Jury’s, Ballsbridge, Magee was the first celebrity spotted – and frankly the only one I’d any interest in. The way things were ran off ensured that each celebrity presented, say, a half dozen awards and then departed. My only wish was that these wheels would be pressed into action during the Louth man’s rota.
It didn’t happen – Michael Sheridan, then of RTE, it had to be – but – and my big educator from Kerry wasn’t a man to be trifled with – there was no way I was leaving Dublin 4 without meeting the ‘Memory Man’.
At this point, temptation was to express surprise that one of the most famous Irish-Americans there’s been remembered our interaction when we were reunited in Dunboyne later that year. But then, think of the title with which he affectionately and rightly became synonymous.
He could probably remember what Ronnie Delany had for his breakfast before triumphing in Melbourne!
In terms of writing, many will of course know that the late, lamented Con Houlihan was – and forever will be – my idol. However, equally, there’s no way attempts at scribing on such an array of topics could’ve been undertaken over the years without Jimmy as a reference point. Not in person, obviously, though we did meet several times over the years. No, mostly due to the amount of his videos, DVDs and written material accumulated over the years.
It is not being fanciful to suggest that, without him, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today – which hopefully isn’t too bad! Soon after the Ballsbridge occasion, the man from Cooley released a quiz book – all sports of course – the proceeds from which went to the Irish Kidney Association. That acted as a ‘go to’ source for a long time.
Indeed, it’s probably still somewhere in the vaults. Undoubtedly, though, and this will surely apply to many, it will be recollections of his television work that will resonate greatest.