RTÉ broadcaster Colm Murray dies aged 61

Tributes paid to sports presenter who had been suffering from Motor Neurone Disease

RTÉ broadcaster Colm Murray who died today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

RTÉ broadcaster Colm Murray who died today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 18:23

The broadcaster Colm Murray has died from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) at the age of 61.

Mr Murray was one of the country’s best known and best loved sports presenters with a particular enthusiasm for horse racing.

His death was announced this morning. Immediately, tributes started to pour in.

Audio: Jimmy Magee remembers Colm Murray

Colm Murray remembered

Jockey Barry Geragthy tweeted on hearing the news: “Very sad news to hear of RTÉ sports correspondent Colm Murray’s passing he was such a nice man and a great supporter of racing & all sports.”

Fellow jockey Davey Russell tweeted: “Very sad 2 hear of the passing of Colm Murray a true sports fan and gentleman who adored his racing. Thoughts are with his family.”

Fellow RTÉ broadcaster Des Cahill stated: “RIP the legendary Colm Murray.A fantastic colleague with a hearty, infectious laugh..a bundle of energy..& the worst racing tips in Ireland.”

Mr Murray was a native of Moate, Co Westmeath. He went to then University College Galway (UCG) and was keenly involved in the drama society.

He joined RTÉ as a continuity announcer in 1978 and, by his own admission, fell into sports journalism. His enthusiasm and knowledge of horse racing in particular made him hugely popular around race courses in Ireland and at Cheltenham which was the highlight of his sporting year.

Mr Murray is survived by his wife, Anne, daughters Kate and Patricia and his sister Mary.

In June 2011, Mr Murray wrote in The Irish Times’ Health Supplement about his condition.

He was diagnosed on March 30th, 2010, having gone to specialists with an ongoing limp and muscle twitches known as fasciculations.

He wrote: “The progressive loss of mobility has seen me move from the use of one stick to two sticks and then to crutches. I’m trying to work against the odds. I have difficulties in doing everyday things. I have great difficulties in buttoning a shirt, for instance.”

“It is hard to come to terms with suddenly being cast into a world in which you cannot do so many of the things that you took for granted, such as a game of golf or going for a walk.”

He described MND as a “terrible and cruel disease” and did his best to raise awareness of the condition.

He was involved in a trial of the drug Dexpramipexole along with other patients at Beaumont Hospital in 2011 but it was not a success. The Stage III trials failed to show any discernible impact for sufferers of the terminal condition and was withdrawn by its manufacturer, Biogen Idec.

His doctor, Prof Orla Hardiman, said the drug showed promise in animal trials, but that did not translate to humans.

At the time Prof Hardiman said Mr Murray “was still with us but he has lost the power of speech, which is very unfortunate for him because he was so chatty and knowledgeable.”

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his sympathies to Mr Murray’s family.

“Colm was the voice of Irish racing for many years and he lit up the coverage of many a racing meet with his passion and enthusiasm for the sport,” he said.

“ I had the pleasure of being in Colm’s company recently and could see he was a proud Westmeath man who brought out the best in those around him with his affability and gift for storytelling. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Anne, and daughters, Patricia and Kate, and sister, Mary. He is also a huge loss to all in RTÉ and my thoughts are with all who had the pleasure of knowing Colm during his lifetime.”

RTÉ director general Noel Curran said the news of Mr Murray’s death was particularly poignant given that his sister Cathy, who worked in the RTÉ newsroom, died suddenly in May.

Mr Curran added: “He will rightly be remembered by the horse racing community for his enthusiasm and authority. For all who worked with him in RTÉ he will be remembered as a wonderful colleague and friend. Our thoughts and prayers are very much with Colm’s family today.”

RTÉ group head of sport Ryle Nugent said Mr Murray will “long be remembered for his kindness and decency” and he would be remembered as having “an infectious laugh, a real sense of fun and a little mischief that has been, and will always be, missed in this office.”

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin described Mr Murray as “an icon of Irish sports broadcasting and a gentleman to his fingertips.”

“Colm’s passing is a very sad loss to his wife Anne, their daughters Kate and Patricia and his sister, Mary, and I want to extend my deepest sympathies to them at this difficult time,” he said.

“All of us throughout the country identified with Colm. He had an easy manner, an outstanding grasp of sport and a great love and passion for horse racing, the sport he was perhaps most associated with.

“I had the privilege to meet with Colm during his illness and had a great afternoon with him. He regaled me with many stories, mostly to do with sport and some from the world of politics. He was an exceptional raconteur and enlivened many an occasion with the depth of his knowledge and humour.”

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