Voice of the airwaves for club and county

Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin presented RTÉ radio's Gaelic Sports Results show for 58 years. He was also a playwright and author of sports books and a memoir

Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin presented RTÉ radio's Gaelic Sports Results show for 58 years. He was also a playwright and author of sports books and a memoir

Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 00:00

Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin: Born May 12th, 1923; Died: February 17th, 2013:Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin was a broadcaster and journalist specialising in coverage of the GAA. He presented RTÉ radio’s Gaelic Sports Results programme for 58 years, from 1953 to 2011, thereby earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

He took over as the programme’s presenter from his father, who began presenting it in 1930, and whom he had helped to compile match results from all over Ireland. He also announced the main results in Irish, from 1946 to 1950.

He last presented the programme, which was broadcast on Sunday nights, on May 8th, 2011.

Born in NewcastleWest, Co Limerick, in 1923, he was one of four children of Seán Ó Ceallacháin and his wife Frances (nee Madden). He grew up in Fairview, Dublin, and attended all-Irish schools at primary and secondary level, Scoil Colmcille and Coláiste Mhuire, Parnell Square, respectively.

As a boy soprano he twice won Feis Ceoil medals, and was also awarded a scholarship to attend the Abbey Theatre school of acting.

His first broadcast was with the school choir, and he later acted in radio plays.

Luftwaffe bombing

In 1936 he was sent on a Coiste na Páiste holiday to the Kerry Gaeltacht, where he and his companions met Peig Sayers.

He played Gaelic games from an early age and won medals for football and hurling in inter-schools’ competitions.

After completing the Intermediate certificate he took a job as a draper’s assistant.

He was a member of the Local Defence Force during the Emergency and was at the North Strand after the Luftwaffe bombed it in 1941.

He continued to play Gaelic games, and was a member of the St Vincent’s club, of which his father was a founder member. But his father withdrew him from the minor hurling team after he was dropped for a league final in 1938.

He then joined Eoghan Ruadh to play hurling and later played football with Clanna Gael. He won three Dublin minor and one senior championship medals with Eoghan Ruadh.

He was selected for the Dublin hurling team in 1944 and kept his place for nine years. A half-forward, in 1948 he won his first Leinster senior hurling championship medal when Dublin beat Laois in the provincial final. Dublin defeated Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final but lost to Waterford in the final.

In 1945 he joined O’Tooles from Clanna Gael and played senior inter-county football for three years. He was a GAA referee at inter-county level for four years in the 1950s.

Best actor award

As “John Callaghan” he defied the GAA’s ban on “foreign games” to play cricket and soccer with the Ierne sports club. During the summer he played soccer against sides comprising English league footballers home on holiday such as Con Martin of Aston Villa and Tommy Eglington of Everton.

Amateur drama was another interest, and with the Walkinstown Players he won the best actor award at the all-Ireland drama festival in Athlone in 1954.

He ran a sports shop on Talbot Street before joining the Evening Press, covering Gaelic games, in 1954. He wrote for the paper until its demise in 1995 and contributed to the RTÉ radio’s Sports Stadium and was a match commentator.

In 1955 Seán Ó Síocháin phoned him on behalf of GAA general secretary Pádraig Ó Caoimh to complain after he had broken with convention and named the players sent off in a match for which he provided commentary. He was told that the GAA took exception to players being named, as it was bad for the association’s image.

He was warned that if he persisted with this approach, the GAA could find “somebody else” to present the Sunday night results programme.

Alarmed, Ó Ceallacháin consulted sports editor Philip Greene, who referred the matter to the controller of programmes, Roibeárd Ó Faracháin. He in turn instructed Ó Ceallacháin to request an official letter from Ó Caoimh to state the Croke Park concerns.

Nothing more was heard of the matter.

When Telefís Éireann was established, Ó Ceallacháin became a freelance contributor to the station. He presented Gaelic Report and was the first presenter of the Sunday Game, a position he held for two years.

He was active in the campaign to have the bodies of 10 IRA volunteers executed during the War of Independence exhumed from Mountjoy Prison yard and re-interred in Glasnevin Cemetery in 2001.

He was the author of plays for stage and radio, and wrote six sports books and a memoir.

Predeceased by his wife Ann, he is survived by his son Finín and daughters Caitríona and Sinéad.