'One of the finest contributors to the GAA over many decades'
The veteran broadcaster Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin, whose voice was as constant as Irish rain, has died at the age of 89.
Mr Ó Ceallacháin was a fixture on Irish radio since 1948 before retiring in 2011, making his 63-year career not only the longest in Irish sports broadcasting, but probably the longest in the history of sports broadcasting.
Gaelic football’s most successful manager Mick O’Dwyer said that Mr Ó Ceallacháin “represented the voice of urban Dublin and rural Ireland”, while former Dublin footballer Jimmy Keaveney noted that Dublin GAA had lost two of its stalwarts in recent weeks with the death, too, of Kevin Heffernan.
When Mr Ó Ceallacháin retired two years ago, it was the end of an association stretching back to 1932 when his father began broadcasting on Radio Éireann.
Sunday evening results
His son joined him broadcasting as Gaeilge in 1948, before taking over the Sunday evening results service himself in 1953.
Mr Ó Ceallacháin played hurling for Dublin for 10 years, between 1943 and 1953, and played in the All-Ireland final of 1948 in which he scored a goal. He was also a good Gaelic footballer and a two-handicap golfer.
His Gaelic sports service was a staple of the season, beginning with his characteristic greeting as Gaeilge “Go mbeannaí Dia díobh go léir a chairde Gael”.
His programme was the Irish equivalent of The Shipping Forecast, evoking the poetry of local place names. His own favourites were Gortletteragh in Co Leitrim and Knocknagoshel in Co Kerry.
In the days before ubiquitous mass communication, when phones were a rarity in rural Ireland and email and fax was non-existent, the results service from every county in Ireland was a huge logistical exercise often depending on the local Garda station for co-operation. Mr Ó Ceallacháin had the process down to a fine art, giving each of his contacts a time slot to phone in their reports.
Though his voice and manner were redolent of a gentler era, he also stood up to the GAA hierarchy in a famous incident in 1955 when he named a player who was sent off.
At the time it was regarded as reflecting badly on the player, his family and the GAA, but Mr Ó Ceallacháin, with the support of RTÉ, refused to back down.
President Michael D Higgins described him as “one of the finest all-round contributors to the GAA over many decades”, noting his achievements as a broadcaster, player and writer.
Noel Curran, RTÉ director general, said Mr Ó Ceallacháin was a legend in sports journalism.
“When he signed off on his last Gaelic Sports Results programme in 2011, it was a momentous moment, not only in broadcasting but in the sporting life of the nation,” Mr Curran said.
“His passing will be acknowledged by the many thousands of listeners for whom Seán Óg’s Sunday night broadcasts were an essential part of our sporting Sundays.”
Mr Ó Ceallacháin is survived by his son, two daughters and their families.