Micheal O Muircheartaigh was like ‘grandfather’ to Irish nation, funeral hears

Renowned Gaelic games commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh was like a grandfather to the Irish nation, his funeral has heard.

O Muircheartaigh died on Tuesday morning, aged 93, in a Dublin hospital, surrounded by family members.

His funeral mass, which was conducted in both Irish and English, was held at St Mary’s Church in Dingle in his beloved Co Kerry before burial in nearby St Brendan’s Cemetery

His coffin was draped in a Kerry flag as it was brought into the church ahead of the service, which was attended by Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin and President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Jarlath Burns.

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Simon Harris were represented by their respective aide de camps.

The voice of the former RTE broadcaster was synonymous with the GAA in Ireland during a career that spanned six decades.

In his homily, Fr Michael Moynihan said O Muircheartaigh had lived a “remarkable” life.

He said news of his death was met with sadness across Ireland.

“It felt like the end of an era,” he said.

The hearse carrying renowned Gaelic games commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh following his funeral at St Mary’s Church in Dingle, Co Kerry
The hearse carrying renowned Gaelic games commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh following his funeral at St Mary’s Church in Dingle, Co Kerry (Noel Sweeney/PA)

“It is evident people across the country had a great fondness for Micheal – he was like a grandfather figure to our nation for over 60 years.

“He was part of the life in our kitchens and sitting rooms as we gathered to follow football and hurling matches. Even though he was retired since 2010, we felt that a chapter in our lives had closed (when he died), never to be reopened again.”

He added: “We were blessed with his presence for 93 years. As we reflect on his life’s journey, we recognise a life filled with passion, dedication and an enduring love for the Irish language, for education, for sport and for culture. He brought that passion to all he did.

“Kerry held a special place in Micheal’s heart, his love for this beautiful county was very evident, from its landscape to its people, from its history to its culture. Kerry was a source of joy and pride which was both genuine and inspiring.”

O Muircheartaigh was famous for his one-liners during commentaries. One of the best known was about Cork gaelic footballer Anthony Lynch whom he described as “the last person to let you down – his people are undertakers”.

The commentator’s son Aonghus told his funeral that, unknown to the family, his father had arranged several years ago to have his casket made by the Lynch family undertakers.

Micheal O Muircheartaigh funeral
The congregation during the funeral for renowned Gaelic games commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh at St Mary’s Church in Dingle, Co Kerry (Noel Sweeney/PA)

“A little bit of his humour maybe and completing the story properly,” his son said.

A teacher before he joined RTE full-time in the 1980s, O Muircheartaigh commentated in both the Irish and English languages.

His life as a sports commentator began many years before taking on the job full time, describing his first match in 1949.

O Muircheartaigh is survived by his wife Helena, his children Eamonn, Niamh, Aonghus, Cormac, Neasa, Nuala, Eadaoin and Doireann, and his grandchildren.

Former Kerry footballer and fellow broadcaster Micheal O Se delivered a tribute in Irish during the service.

He said the greatest compliment you can give to any Irish person is to say they are a good storyteller.

Micheal O Muircheartaigh funeral
The photo on display during the funeral of Micheal O Muircheartaigh at St Mary’s Church in Dingle, Co Kerry (Noel Sweeney/PA)

“Micheal O Muircheartaigh was an extraordinary storyteller,” he said. “A microphone in Michael’s hand was like a brush in the hand of an artist.”

O Se said O Muircheartaigh loved the big sporting occasions, which would give extra energy to his commentaries, and he put thousands under a spell with his words.

“He was the voice of the nation,” he added.

He said that commentary changed a lot between 1949 when O Muircheartaigh started and when he retired in 2010. But he said he did not need to change anything, as he had his own style.

“All he needed was a copy book, the two teams written out himself, and biros of every colour suiting the colours of the hurlers’ helmets,” he added.

The commentator’s son Aonghus delivered a family tribute near the close of the service.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin speaking to the media following the funeral
Tanaiste Micheal Martin speaking to the media following the funeral (Noel Sweeney/PA)

“He had great energy and enthusiasm for action and didn’t believe in tiredness,” he recalled.

“Some parents might be awakened by their children jumping up and down on a bed. We experienced the opposite.

“Dad would literally jump up and down early mornings, he often woke his children and grandchildren banging pots and pans together. Another time we were awakened by him chipping golf balls into pots outside of our bedroom to wake us up in time for a golf tournament.

“Anything that would make plenty of noise so that we’d be on the road in time. And in this case five in the morning.”

An audio clip of O Muircheartaigh reflecting on his upbringing and his love of Co Kerry was then played to mourners.

At the start of the mass, O Muircheartaigh’s grandchildren brought symbols of his talents and interests to the altar.

Micheal O Muircheartaigh funeral
West Kerry singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh performing during the funeral (Noel Sweeney/PA)

Described by his daughter Eadaoin, they represented his love of all types of sports- Gaelic games and golf particularly. A children’s book he wrote about the history of Croke Park was also brought up.

A dictionary and a piece of art was brought up to represent his love for the Irish language.

His teaching degree that he achieved in 1951 and family photos were also brought to the altar as symbols.

A Sam McGuire cup brought from Malawi in Africa was also presented.

His daughter explained the significance of that item: “Dad spent a while there doing charity work, so we have this as a symbol of his volunteering work and travel that he did.”

Following his death, President of Ireland Mr Higgins said O Muircheartaigh’s commentaries captured “like no other the sense of occasion, the atmosphere in the stadium and on the terraces, the ebb and flow of the play and of every movement”.

Since his passing, people have been reminiscing on the one-liners that made his commentary so unique.

Many have cited his description of Cork hurler and footballer Sean Og O hAilpin, about whom O Muircheartaigh once remarked: “His father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji – neither a hurling stronghold.”

Another is: “The stopwatch has stopped. It’s up to God and the referee now. The referee is Pat Horan. God is God.”