Monday 24 October 2016

Broadcasting legend Bill O'Herlihy dies

Bill O'Herlihy
Bill O'Herlihy

Broadcasting legend Bill O'Herlihy has passed away.

The retired television broadcaster passed away at home this morning. He was 76 years of age.

Mr O'Herlihy was best known as the long-time presenter of RTE's soccer coverage.

Last summer’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina saw Bill retire after a television career spanning five decades.

Born in Cork, Bill O’Herlihy became a journalist at 16, writing for the Cork Examiner. His first broadcast for RTÉ was a piece commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania off the Cork coast for Newsbeat in 1965. s. In 1973, he founded the O'Herlihy Communications Group.

Bill led RTÉ’s coverage of several Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups, UEFA European Football Championships and European and World Track and Field Championships.

Bill O’Herlihy presented ten World Cups for RTÉ, including Brazil 2014, and ten Olympics Games. Bill also presented the first Rugby World Cup on RTÉ television as well as co-presenting the very first Sunday Game with Jim Carney in 1979.

BIll won a Jacob's award for his presentation of the 1990 World Cup, and was Irish Sports Journalist of the Year 2003. In 2007 he was named the Irish Film and Television Academy's Television Personality of the Year.

Bill anchored his final World Cup last year and was working on a new show for RTÉ One at the time of his passing.

Noel Curran, Director-General, RTÉ, said: “Everyone in RTÉ is devastated at today’s news. Bill O’Herlihy was a giant of the sporting and broadcasting worlds in this country.

"His contribution to broadcasting was utterly unique. For decades he was at the centre of some of Ireland’s greatest sporting moments. He never hid his emotions on those big occasions, from disappointment to utter joy, and for this he was greatly loved.

"But he was also a fantastic broadcaster and interviewer, getting the very best out of his interview panels and provoking debate and insight, and for this he was also hugely admired. Our sincere sympathies go to Bill’s wife Hillary, daughters Jill and Sally, grandchildren, family, friends and colleagues.” 

Bill suffered a number of health scares throughout the years, including a heart attack at the age of 45 in 1984.

O'Herlihy also had a health scare in the mid-1990s when he suffered a severe heart attack and was forced to have a triple bypass.

READ MORE: 'Ah come on now Eamon, that's out of order' - A look-back on Bill O'Herlihy's greatest TV moments

Speaking about the heart attack he suffered in 1984, Mr O'Herlihy  previously told the Irish Independent.

"I'd a lot of work stress then. I had been reluctant to go back on television in case I would get another health scare, but my consultant asked me if I wanted to be a heart attack cripple or someone who was living life as normally as possible and that set my mind straight."

Bill, who lost his mother and two sisters to cancer, also suffered from the disease seven years ago and had part of his colon removed.

He was given the all-clear after the operation and told he would not have to undergo chemotherapy.

He said after the operation: "I had part of my colon removed, but I'm absolutely fine now. Haven't looked back."

Friend and former colleague Johnny Giles recently described Bill as a 'great broadcaster and a true legend'.

The veteran presenter retired at the end of the 2014 World Cup, his 10th as RTE anchor after his debut in 1978.

The public relations executive described his broadcasting career – which has almost spanned five decades – as "wonderful" as he worked in news, features, current affairs and sport.

He picked the Irish penalty shoot-out against Romania in the 1990 World Cup as the highlight of his career, particularly the celebrations in the studio.

“The 1990 World Cup was unbelievable it was the first time we qualified and was a very, very special time. That was the year George Hamilton coming up with the great line, ‘the nation holds its breath’".

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