Colm Murray, one of Ireland's best-loved broadcasters, died yesterday from motor neurone disease. He was 61.
Tributes were paid to a man whose gentle humour and enthusiasm endeared him to all who knew him including his colleagues in RTÉ, politicians from across the political spectrum and the horse racing fraternity.
In March 2010, Mr Murray was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, which is incurable.
In an interview with The Irish Times in January 2011, he spoke of the reality of living with a "terrible and cruel" disease.
"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 made a documentary entitled MND – The Inside Track, which attracted 600,000 viewers.
Voice of Irish racing
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Murray was the voice of Irish racing for many years and he lit up the coverage of racing meets with his passion and enthusiasm. "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," he said.
His friend and fellow RTÉ broadcaster Seán O'Rourke said his death in the middle of the Galway races, which he first attended as a child, had about it a sad timeliness.
"He was an absolutely wonderful man. He had the capacity to light up a room and engage with people in an enthusiastic way," he said. Jimmy Magee, whose son Paul died from motor neurone disease, said he had witnessed at first hand how "unforgiving" the disease could be. "Even when he was reaching the end, he still had a smile. He was a real fighter and he loved his job. He truly was a gent in every sense of that word," he said.
Brian Kavanagh, the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said Mr Murray’s passion for racing was obvious. “He loved his racing and always gave it a great plug,” Mr Kavanagh said.
“It’s ironic that he has passed away during Galway. No doubt he’s up there now doing his doubles and trebles for tomorrow.
“Everyone was so impressed with how he conducted himself through a terrible illness. Everyone in racing sends their sympathies to his wife and family.”
At the Galway Races, where jockeys wore black armbands in memory of Mr Murray yesterday, trainer Dermot Weld recalled training a winner at the Curragh for the late broadcaster. “Colm was involved in a syndicate with me for the horse Creux Noir. He was a wonderful man and a great friend to racing,” he said.
"I actually have a photo in my office of Ansar coming back to the winners' enclosure after winning the Galway Plate and there's one C Murray in the middle, wildly excited, no doubt having backed him."
'Very special person'
Champion trainer Aidan O'Brien said Mr Murray was a "very special" person. "His enthusiasm and genuineness was obvious to everyone. You couldn't say enough nice things about him," he said.
Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan said: “Colm’s untimely passing is a very sad day. It was remarkable the way he bore his illness. It impressed everybody.”
Top jockey Barry Geraghty echoed those sentiments and said: “He was such a nice man and a great supporter of racing and all sports.”
Mr Murray was also a gifted mimic and raconteur, talents that were showcased in an interview he did about his life with O’Rourke in January 2012, while he was still able to speak.
Mr Murray grew up in Moate, Co Westmeath, where his father owned a travelling shop and then a general store. It was through his father that he was introduced to politics and horse racing, two enduring loves in his life.
He joined RTÉ as a continuity announcer in 1978. He became a sports broadcaster in 1989, despite his protestations that he was not a sports journalist.
He is survived by his wife Ann, daughters Kate and Patricia and his sister Mary. His sister Cathy, who also worked in RTÉ, died suddenly in May.
His removal takes place tomorrow morning to St Gabriel’s Church, Dollymount, for funeral Mass afterwards.