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Whistler Willie one in a million

BACK where it all began – over half a century ago.

Willie Murtagh can well remember his first refereeing appointment.

It was a gentle cycle from his home to the Iveagh Grounds to take charge of a junior hurling tie between Guinness and Treaty Gaels.

This season he returned to the iconic Crumlin Road venue, still blowing the whistle.

His fan club has grown through the decades. One admirer writes: "54 years on and Willie was still illuminating the place with his charm and wit. And, as always, not a yellow card in sight."

He was in the middle as St James's Gaels played St Jude's in the AFL Division 10 South. He refereed the game with a smile, and with a bagful of common sense.

They say that Willie's style has inspired so many to take up refereeing. He has met thousands of people in his career.

Spinning

He remembers being on duty when Des Cahill and Greg Allen first arrived with the pen to report on 'The Big Match' for the Evening Press.

He loves reading the paper and listening to the radio. He's completed countless Tour de Crumlin's on his trusty two-wheeler.

"As long as the legs keep spinning, Willie will still be turning up to referee his matches," continues his admirer.

"They say around here that he's the longest serving referee in Ireland – possibly Europe. But the man is too modest for that type of talk.

"It's hard to believe that Willie has been refereeing since 1959. That's the year that De Valera became the president of Ireland and that Bobby Darin topped the hit parade with 'Mack The Knife'.

"Willie is just one of a kind. A genuine gentleman. We often feel he should be in the Guinness Book of Records.

"And how apt that would be considering that his very first game involved the Guinness club all those years ago.

"But, as I say, Willie doesn't entertain such thoughts. But for his legion of fans, he'll always be Dublin's favourite whistler."


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