Journalist and author equally at home with European affairs or reporting on Gaelic games

 

Val Dorgan who died on June 2nd aged 67, was a fiery Cork journalist and sportsman who could write as fluently and colourfully on European affairs as well as GAA games.

His career with Examiner Publications spanned 43 years during which he rose from a post in the commercial department to chief GAA correspondent, European affairs commentator and finally chief editorial writer.

He won the European Journalist of the Year award in 1987.

In his younger years Val Dorgan played hurling with the famed Glen Rovers club in Blackpool, Cork, alongside the legendary Christy Ring. He also represented Cork and Munster in squash.

He helped pioneer RT╔ television coverage of GAA games when working on Sports Report in the 1960s.

Daniel Valentine Dorgan was born on February 13th, 1934. He grew up in Patrick's Arch, off Gerald Griffin Street on the north side of the River Lee. He was the only son of Patrick and Ellen Dorgan. Patrick Dorgan had fought with the British army in the second World War and had been a prisoner of war in Germany for four years.

Val Dorgan was educated at North Monastery CBS and received top marks in the Leaving Certificate which he sat through Irish. He also won a medical scholarship for children of British army veterans and studied medicine briefly at University College Cork, but abandoned a medical career for journalism.

His passion in those years was hurling and although short in stature he won his way onto Cork county minor teams.

As a teenager he joined Glen Rovers and was thrilled to play alongside Christy Ring, winning several county championship medals.

In his later book on Ring, Christy Ring (1980) Val Dorgan wrote: "He was, and always will be, my sports idol. I was incredibly lucky as a teenager to play with him for Glen Rovers and be his team-mate for four county championships from 1952 to 1955. As a GAA reporter I covered his games until he finished in '67." They later played "ferociously competitive" squash against each other.

Christy Ring was one of the inspirations for the main figure in Val Dorgan's play The Hurler in which he explored the relationship between republicanism and the GAA, but Ring was not impressed with the play according to its author. The then president, Dr Patrick Hillery fulfilled a promise to the author, by attending the first night at the Granary Theatre in UCC. Val Dorgan had come to know Dr Hillery when he was leading Ireland's EEC entry negotiations as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

There was some apprehension among the Irish negotiating team when they heard that the Cork Examiner had appointed "a sports journalist" to report on the negotiations. But Val Dorgan quickly showed that he could grasp the main issues and write informed and at times lively articles about complex subjects.

As he was to write later: "The encouraging difference between covering GAA and the EEC is that nobody punches you in a city fish and chip shop over 'Monetary Compensation Amounts'." Val Dorgan also began covering events in Northern Ireland when violence erupted in the Bogside in Derry in 1969. He reported extensively on the Widgery Tribunal investigating the Bloody Sunday killing of 13 civilians in Derry by British paratroopers.

He also kept a close eye on domestic politics. Politicians came to respect and fear his pungent commentaries and reporting. He was the first journalist to write about Dr Garret FitzGerald's "crusade" to reform the Constitution soon after he became Taoiseach in 1981. In an interview with Val Dorgan which the rest of the media quickly followed up, Dr FizGerald indicated he would like to amend Articles Two and Three dealing with Partition as well as other articles which he saw as "sectarian" in nature.

Golf became a passion for Val Dorgan when he took it up at a comparatively late stage. He made a bet with friends that he would get his handicap down to a single figure inside six months and he did. He also wrote a well-received golf column, "The View From the Bunker".

He retired from the Examiner in 1996 and concentrated on golf which he played until recently.

Val Dorgan is survived by his partner, Helen Twomey, his wife, Hannah, and his two sons, Pat and Fergal.

Val Dorgan: born 1934; died, June 2001