Thank goodness we were all born under Mícheál's Wand'rin' Star
MÍCHEÁL Ó MUIRCHEARTAIGH’S LAST COMMENTARY:ÉADAOIN Ó MUIRCHEARTAIGH reckoned her father’s decision to retire might be an indication of a “mid-life crisis”, or maybe it was just “a career change”, suggestions that drew a hearty chuckle from the man himself in his Late Late Showchair.
She was far from alone, though, in struggling to imagine a Sunday afternoon without his voice singing from the radio. The great and the good of the GAA world who turned up to pay tribute to him were equally at a loss to understand how sporting life would ever be the same again.
But with a wave of the hand Mícheál reminded them all that life goes on, and, besides, he has other things to be doing. Like raising his retirement gift.
“Conas atá tú,” he asked Barney the greyhound when they were introduced. Barney didn’t reply, but give him time, he couldn’t but pick up the language from the master.
Two more of his children, Doireann and Cormac, turned up with him yesterday morning on Miriam O’Callaghan’s radio show, Mícheál telling us that it wasn’t until the 1930s that anyone in his home village had a radio. Cormac, meanwhile, has spent the last few years listening to his father’s commentaries on the internet in his Singapore home. The notion that advances in technology have resulted in his voice filling the air from Toronto to Timbuktu brought another giggle, this time of the head-scratching kind.
The first radio in his home didn’t arrive until the 1940s, when his aunty May brought it from America. “But there was no sound from it until she discovered you needed batteries,” he laughed, “she had electricity in America.”
We got an idea of the role sport has played in his life when he recalled his wedding day. His late brother Paddy noted in his speech: Mícheál and Helena “did 29.50 coming down the aisle”.
“And those who follow the greyhounds would know that 29.50 would be a super time for a round of the track at Shelbourne Park,” he said.
“By the way,” asked Cormac, “how did you propose?”
“I haven’t a clue,” said his father, “but I know I played a game of golf beforehand.”
“Did you go down on one knee,” asked Miriam.
“No, I’d a bad knee at the time,” he said, sounding like a man who’d feel more comfortable in a bunker than answering romance-related inquiries.
His children, though, revealed plenty about their father that most of us wouldn’t have known, not least the bit about his unique culinary talents.
“He invented Tomax – a mixture of tomato and oxtail soup,” Cormac told us.
Mícheál insisted, to a presumably sceptical audience, it was delicious.
“And he makes bread once every five years,” said Cormac, Mícheál vowing that he’d get kneading more often now that he’d have the time.
Wand’rin’ Star, the old Lee Marvin song, was Cormac’s choice of music, the family deciding many years ago that it should be Mícheál’s theme tune because the lyrics could have been written about him.
And with that it was time to wander on over to Croke Park, with Mícheál, and Tommy Carr, his commentary box lieutenant, introduced for one last time on All-Ireland final day by Con Murphy.
“It’s a pleasure and a privilege to hand over to the man himself for commentary on the big game, but for Mícheál there are still mountains to be climbed, corners of the world to be visited and great golf courses to be conquered, so for the last time in this chapter of the journey . . . ”
Mícheál thanked Con and immediately began describing the parade. Down to business.
And it was business as usual.
“Line ball to the Down men going across now to take it is Kevin McKernan, he’s from the Burren an electrician 22 years of age the son of Brendan who has an All-Ireland medal to show him at home the ball breaks inside and Eoin Cadogan is there to collect it for the Cork men.”
Deep breath. Has any human being ever needed so little oxygen?
Every break of the play was, as ever, filled with hellos to listeners from, well, Toronto to Timbuktu, most of whom Mícheál seemed to have met on his travels, with a special greeting to the people in the internet café in Thailand, Joe in Ghana and Charlie in Dunmanway.
In turn, Con and Jacqui Hurley read out dozens of best wishes from around the globe to the one-man soundtrack to our summers.
The final seconds. “The referee blows the whistle and Cork are the All-Ireland champions of 2010,” said the Kerryman, with no hint of indignation. No “Cork?! Why God, why? On my last day!”
His day’s work done. Con and Jacqui asked him for his final thoughts.
“Everybody put their shoulder into whatever little part they had, I had a lovely part, the nicest part of all: sitting down in a good seat looking at wonderful players.”
And with that he said go raibh míle maith agat and goodbye.
You’d like to think he was humming on his way out of Croke Park, “Wheels are made for rolling, mules are made to pack, I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back”.
Happy retirement Wand’rin’ Star, keep on shining.