‘I’ve seen it all now, a Rabbitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park’: Pat Fox on Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s famous quote

Tipperary hurler was name-checked in two of Ó Muircheartaigh’s colourful on-air yarns

Tony Keady (white helmet) and Ollie Kilkenny put pressure on Tipperary’s Pat Fox during the 1987 All-Ireland hurling semi-final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Rabbitte has followed Pat Fox around for most of his life at this stage, but the former Tipperary hurler is happy to have played a lead character in one of Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s most celebrated quotes.

The seemingly endless list of classic Ó Muircheartaigh commentary moments have received a fresh airing following the death of the 93-year-old broadcaster.

Fox was name-checked in two of Ó Muircheartaigh’s colourful on-air yarns, and the 1991 Texaco Hurler of the Year reckons those lines made him more famous than anything he produced on the pitch.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh - in his own wordsOpens in new window ]

“I was only a reasonably ordinary hurler,” says Fox. “But above anything else I was known because of that commentary and what Micheál said about me more than what I managed to do on a hurling field.

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“His voice was special, both himself and Michael Ó Hehir were iconic really. I was very sorry to hear the news. The way he could describe a game, it was often said about Micheál – he would make a bad match sound good.”

Fox and Ó Muircheartaigh remained close friends long after the three-time All Star retired from the game. Indeed, it wouldn’t be unusual for Ó Muircheartaigh to stop off at Fox’s pub in Cashel and pop in for a cup of tea.

But over the years the topic rarely, if ever, drifted back to Ó Muircheartaigh’s masterful one-liners about Fox.

The standout commentary remains: “Pat Fox has it on his hurl and is motoring well now, but here comes Joe Rabbitte hot on his tail. I’ve seen it all now, a Rabbitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park.”

The Tipp-Galway rivalry was intense during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“I think I spoke with Joe one time about it, but neither of us could remember it,” smiles Fox. “But to this day I would have people saying it to me in the pub. You’d have people coming in from all over and they would be asking, ‘Are you the famous Fox who was chased by the Rabbitte?’ Yeah, it still comes up in the pub a lot.”

The other standout anecdote in relation to Fox involved Ó Muircheartaigh interlacing his match commentary with a story about purchasing a greyhound.

Ó Muircheartaigh stated: “Pat Fox out to the 40 and grabs the sliotar. I bought a dog from his father last week. Fox turns and sprints for goal, the dog ran a great race last Tuesday in Limerick. Fox, to the 21, fires a shot, it goes to the left and wide. And the dog lost as well.”

It’s just another of Ó Muircheartaigh’s stacked back catalogue of lyrical hits.

“My father was a great man for the greyhounds but really and truly I’m not too sure if he ever had greyhounds,” Fox says with a smile.

The seemingly endless list of classic Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh commentary moments have received a fresh airing following the death of the 93-year-old broadcaster. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Fox and Ó Muircheartaigh often played golf together over the years and there is one act, far away from the microphone and the playing field, which stands out to the former Tipperary hurler about the ex-RTÉ broadcaster.

“I had a bad knee during my playing days, but I remember Micheál calling down to our farm at home to deliver me a knee bandage at one stage,” Fox recalls.

“I think Babs [Keating] had given it to Micheál and asked him to drop it off. Micheál drove miles out of his way to bring that knee bandage to me. That’s the kind of man he was.

“Then, over the years, he would have called regularly to the pub for a chat. He was a great man to get about.”

Ó Muircheartaigh’s impact spanned the generations. Ger Brennan, the current Louth manager and former Dublin footballer, remembers the Kerry man approaching him before a league game during the early days of his senior intercounty playing career.

“His ability to remember where people came from, and not only that, where their parents came from, was incredible,” Brennan says.

“My memories of Micheál would relate to my uncle Fran Brennan, who would have played soccer for Dundalk and would have had an international cap. And my uncle Tom Brennan who ran for Ireland cross-country.

“I was only fresh on the Dublin team for a match in Parnell Park against Kerry and I was walking the pitch beforehand. I knew who he was, but I didn’t think he knew me.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh: People felt they knew him and that he knew them tooOpens in new window ]

“But he came over and shook hands and said, ‘I knew your late uncle Tom, and Fran as well.’ For me, it was a very humbling experience.”

Brennan is also the head of Gaelic games at UCD, and Ó Muircheartaigh had history at the university too.

“We had an event for Micheál, we brought him over to UCD where he used to train the Galway and Kerry players around the pitches there for all the lads based in Dublin,” Brennan says.

“In more recent years he would have been at Brian Mullins’s funeral. So God rest him, a great GAA man and a great person. A national treasure.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times