Former RTÉ presenter Bill O’Herlihy dies aged 76

Veteran broadcaster fronted sports coverage for over 40 years

A tribute to veteran broadcaster Bill O'Herlihy, who has died aged 76. Video: RTÉ

 

Former RTÉ presenter Bill O’Herlihy has died. He was 76. RTÉ said in a statement that he “passed away peacefully at home this morning”.

O’Herlihy, a native of Cork, joined RTÉ in the early 1960s, soon becoming a mainstay of the broadcaster’s sports coverage. He was RTÉ’s chief sports presenter for such events as Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups, UEFA European Football Championships and European and World Track and Field Championships.

“Everyone in RTÉ is devastated at today’s news. Bill O’Herlihy was a giant of the sporting and broadcasting worlds in this country,” said Noel Curran, Director-General, RTÉ.

“His contribution to broadcasting was utterly unique. For decades he was at the centre of some of Ireland’s greatest sporting moments. He never hid his emotions on those big occasions, from disappointment to utter joy, and for this he was greatly loved.

But he was also a fantastic broadcaster and interviewer, getting the very best out of his interview panels and provoking debate and insight, and for this he was also hugely admired. Our sincere sympathies go to Bill’s wife Hillary, daughters Jill and Sally, grandchildren, family, friends and colleagues.”

The veteran broadcaster said an emotional farewell to audiences last July following his last programme as anchor of RTÉ’s soccer coverage alongside Johnny Giles, Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy after Germany won the 2014 World Cup against Argentina.

A tribute video was produced featuring Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Robbie Keane amongst others.

“That’s it for the World Cup coverage and that’s it from me too,” O’Herlihy said at the time.

“I take my leave with so many great memories through more than 40 years of sports broadcasting. I’ve been lucky to be part of a huge, positive development in RTÉ sports coverage that got so many great occasions to the public but my work on soccer, and most especially with the Three Amigos here, has been the great highlight of my career.

“Eamon and I have soldiered together since the 70s, John since the 80s and Liam from the 90s. You’ve brought knowledge, insight, controversy and greatly importantly, a sense of fun to our coverage which by any measurement has been outstandingly successful.

“Of course we’ve had our differences like when I sometimes lost the run of myself and imagined I was an analyst rather than an anchor and I got very much put in my place, but I’ve had so much fun over the years, learned so much about football and frankly, and there’s no doubt about this, I have piggybacked on the talent of these three gentlemen.

“Through working with them I have been privileged to serve you, the viewer, and you have been astonishingly generous down through the years. I thank you for that.

“Now I leave the studio and I’ll view your work from the other side of the screen. I wish you continued success but like the Skibbereen Eagle, I’ll be keeping an eye on you.

“So we’ll leave it there so. Okey doke. Good night and God bless.”

O’Herlihy presented 10 World Cups for RTÉ and 10 Olympics Games. He also presented the first Rugby World Cup on RTÉ television as well as co-presenting the very first Sunday Game with Jim Carney in 1979.

He won a Jacob’s award for his presentation of the 1990 World Cup, and was Irish Sports Journalist of the Year 2003. In 2007 he was named the Irish Film and Television Academy’s Television Personality of the Year.

O’Herlihy also served as a media adviser to Fine Gael and was one of Garret FitzGerald’s advisers during his terms as taoiseach in the 1980s.

O’Herlihy founded public relations firm O’Herlihy Communications more than 40 years ago.

The firm announced plans last March to merge with Insight Consultants, the communications firm run by Michael Parker.

Insight, which was established nine years ago, was formerly the press adviser to the Rehab group. O’Herlihy Communications has in the past worked with clients including tobacco companies.

Born in Cork, O’Herlihy was educated at Glasheen boys’ national school and later at St Finbarr’s College, Farranferris.