Tuesday 22 May 2018

'He was the voice of Irish sport' - Jimmy's son hails TV legend

Broadcaster Jimmy Magee, who passed away yesterday, aged 82
Broadcaster Jimmy Magee, who passed away yesterday, aged 82

Jimmy Magee's son Mark has paid a poignant tribute to his father after the legendary sports broadcaster and journalist died at the age of 82.

Magee covered 12 World Cups and 13 Olympic Games in an illustrious career with RTE and had also been a columnist for the Sunday World since 1973 - during that time his work appeared in every single edition.

All across Ireland tributes have been pouring in for Magee, whose iconic voice and endearing personality made him such a well-liked personality.

"This was a good man who only ever saw the good in people," his son Mark told the Herald. "He never truly understood why people would spend their life trying to take someone down. He came from the background of 'if you have nothing good to say, don't say it at all'.


"His whole life was work but his work was sport. All conversations were around sport or travel."

Jimmy was born in New York on January 31, 1935 to Irish parents and was the first of four children.

When he was three the family returned to Ireland to Greenore, Co Louth. His last trip to his birthplace came in 2015 for his 80th birthday.

"In 2015 we went on a father and son cruise. He got a cruise from Southampton to New York," added Mark.

"He sailed out from New York to Ireland as a little boy of three years and he wanted to re-enact that before he died. He wanted to sail past the Statue of Liberty and he did that. I flew to New York and met him and we went on a little mini tour including trips to Boston and Washington."

Jimmy married childhood sweetheart Marie on October 11, 1955 and they had five children together - Paul, Mark, Patricia, June and Linda.

Sadly Marie died at the age of 54 in 1989 while Paul lost his fight with motor neurone disease in 2008.

"He was a great father. Sometimes he may miss birthdays as he would be working at major sporting events but he would always make up for it and attend our own sporting endeavours," said Mark. "He probably never recovered from losing his wife Marie and my brother Paul.

"He always encouraged us to practise what we are good at and concentrate on what you need to improve on."

Jimmy's love of life and travelling is something Mark is keen to pass on to his own family. "My daughter pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket today. It was a list Dad gave her of where she needs to visit before she is 21," he added.

Despite being 82, Jimmy was still committed to working hard and, in his own eyes, never retired.

"As far as he was concerned, he never retired. He didn't feel a barrier to age," said Mark.

"He had heart problems from a long way back. The bottom line is his body wasn't able to handle infections as he got older.

"He was not ill a long time and the hospital were surprised by his death in the end.

"He was admitted last Wednesday and this was the longest stint he did in hospital since his bypass operation 19 years ago."

Jimmy's voice will forever be remembered by sports fans in Ireland. He was the man who commentated on some of the most memorable sporting moments this nation has witnessed. "I don't believe its coincidental that his commentary accompanied some of the most iconic sporting clips we often see on TV," added Mark.

"I believe his voice added to them - John Treacy, Michael Carruth, Diego Maradona. An iconic voice and a good man."


RTE announced news of Jimmy's death after a short illness yesterday morning.

RTE broadcaster Des Cahill said: "He was a pure rogue for trying to get a laugh going on a trip away. He was great to travel with. The big thing I'll remember him for is he was fun, he was cheeky."

Ryle Nugent tweeted: "Jimmy Magee #rip another gone from the sound track of our youth. Unbelievably supportive, always positive, different class..."

Jimmy commentated on a wide range of sports for RTE and was at the helm for Katie Taylor's fight at the London Olympics in 2012. He received a PPI Outstanding Achievement Award in 2006 to mark his 50th year in broadcasting.

He is survived by his children Linda, Mark, June and Patricia.

Jimmy's funeral mass will take place tomorrow morning in Kilmacud.

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