Writer's last column praises Katie Taylor

Mon, Aug 6, 2012, 01:00

EVEN IN his final days, sports journalist Con Houlihan could not be silent. His last column, which he wrote last Tuesday, was published in yesterday’s Sunday World, the day after he passed away at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He remembered how he ferried people on the family’s horse and trap to watch Irish athletes prepare for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 at Ballybunion, Co Kerry.

He wished boxer Katie Taylor well, and, in his familiar fógra at the end of his column, he namechecked three friends, Frank Greally, the editor of Irish Runner magazine; Feidhlim Kelly, who has been typing his columns in recent years; and The Irish Times sports journalist Ian O’Riordan.

Houlihan (86) had problems with circulation and a loss of mobility in recent years. He was in St James’s Hospital for the last year of his life.

O’Riordan, who last saw him two weeks ago, said Houlihan remained as “sharp as a razor-blade” despite his physical infirmity right up until the end.

“He was incredibly devout to his writing until the end. From the first day I’ve got into journalism he was supportive of me. He loved to mentor and pass on his wisdom and knowledge.”

Arrangements for Houlihan’s funeral are expected to be finalised this morning, with the funeral Mass likely to take place on Wednesday at St Mary’s, Haddington Road, near Portobello, where he spent his years in Dublin.

Scores of tributes have been paid to a man, a native of Castleisland, Co Kerry, who started in national journalism only when aged 46 but came to be regarded as one of the greatest and the best-loved Irish sports journalist of all.

Houlihan made his name in the Evening Press and was heartbroken when the Irish Press Group closed in 1995.

His last editor, Dick O’Riordan, said Houlihan described the Evening Press newsroom as “the greatest village in the world” and he loved every little bit of it.

He described Houlihan as a “wonderfully kind and talented human being” who was never “cruel or unkind, preferring instead to describe a howler on a pitch or stage in the kindest possible way”.

Houlihan’s reverence for Dublin pubs and nocturnal habits were the stuff of legend, but O’Riordan said nothing “ever interfered with his total professionalism as a journalist”.

“Even after a hard day’s night he would – sometimes astonishingly – be at his desk before dawn to handwrite his column.”