herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Okey doke, we'll leave it there so: Bill O'Herlihy's farewell to RTE

After a five-decades-long career, Bill O'Herlihy (75) has chaired his last World Cup.

As the sun set over the Maracana stadium at the end of Brazil's 2014 World Cup last night, the Corkman's RTE career was also coming to an end.

Tributes have been flooding in for much-loved Billo, who spoke yesterday about his lengthy and distinguished career at the national broadcaster.

"For the first time it's dawning on me that this is my last day that I'm facing the final curtain, as Frank Sinatra would have it, and it's a strange feeling. RTE has been so much a part of my life for 49 years," he said.

"I don't want to be going in a zimmer frame, and the time has definitely come to leave. I always said go out at the top before you start making serious mistakes."

Bill said last night's big match was a fitting finale as he reflected on his time chairing discussions of games during the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

"Poor old Gerry Ryan asked me after the World Cup if I was sorry I wasn't in Italy for it, but I wouldn't have missed Dublin for anything. It was a very special time," he said.

Remarking on David O'Leary's famous penalty against Romania in that tournament, he said the player had shown great bottle.

"We were jumping and dancing around in the studio when he scored. Professional job on one hand but heart on your sleeve on the other hand," he said.

Bill's colleagues last night paid tribute to him.

"Bill is a fantastic broadcaster, one of the greats, he makes it look easy which, of course, it isn't," said Eamon Dunphy.

"His great skill is his ability to listen and decide what's important and what's not. He was our team captain and we will miss him terribly."

John Giles said: "The first thing I'd say is that I hope he enjoys his retirement and I wish him well and good health and I'd like to thank him for all the great memories over the years.

"Like all people at the top of their game, Bill made it look easy - and it's anything but easy."

Liam Brady added: "He was always a great team manager. That's what we are, a team, and Bill managed us very well.

"He particularly looked after me as it was my first gig. John and Eamon were established and I had never done it before. He looked after me and I'm going to miss him."

RTE director general Noel Curran said Bill had been one of the most outstanding broadcasters.

"He's also been a fantastic colleague - a gentleman to work with, professional, knowledgeable but also with a unique mixture of warmth and grit in his presentation style," he said.

"He will be greatly missed by all at RTE, and we extend every good wish to him for his retirement."

While the father of two is stepping down, there is a chance he will be back on our television screens - he has said he would be "open possibly to a series of one-to-one sporting interviews.

lbyrne@herald.ie

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