Dr. Ronnie Thornton had the rare distinction of winging the words of victory to rugby enthusiasts all over when we captured that elusive crown at Belfast in March. Ronnie's excitement was infectious, and when I looked out of my window on that Saturday afternoon as play closed some 150 miles away I saw my neighbours abandon the "good earth" and shout the glad tidings from garden to garden. That's what a good commentary can do to one, particularly if it signals a long-sought victory.
Aghuistin Ingoldsby, from 'The Microphone and Sport in 1948', 'Radio Éireann Yearbook', 1948.
Sport has been a part of RTÉ radio schedules since 1926. Many commentators have covered a wide range of sports, with listeners relying on their familiar voices to describe the action. Sports coverage now comes to us in so many different ways: live streams, play back and podcasts via mobile and handheld devices have been added to comprehensive radio and television coverage, while dedicated sports channels offer multiple camera angles and 'red button' options for the digital television viewer.
On radio, the sports commentators become the eyes of the listener. Aside from those sounds picked up by the effects microphone, the commentator's word is final. The audience is reliant on what the commentator conveys in order to be brought to events as if they were on the terrace or seated ringside.
For almost 90 years, there have been many great voices on RTÉ radio who have provided descriptions of sporting action. For different generations, certain commentators became associated with particular sports. Gaelic Games had Carberry, Éamonn de Barra, Michael O'Hehir, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Mick Dunne, Liam Campbell and Brian Carthy. Soccer has had Phil Greene, Jimmy Magee and Gabriel Egan. Rugby fans can recall Ronnie Thornton, Louis Magee, Austin Darragh, Joe Linnane, Fred Cogley, Tom Rooney and Michael Corcoran. Boxing was covered by Eamon and Noel Andrews and Jimmy Magee. Athletics at home and abroad has been brought to us by Phil Greene, Jimmy Magee, Brendan O'Reilly and Greg Allen. Horse racing has been brought to us by Michael O'Hehir, Des Scahill and Peadar Flanagan, and there have been many more sports and many more commentators who have been charged with describing the action for RTÉ listeners.
Great sports commentary can be passionate, dramatic or funny and conveys the highs and lows of emotion that sport is capable of producing. The radio commentator shapes what we feel about sports events. Here we take a look at some radio sports coverage by reproducing great sporting moments as covered by some of RTÉ radio's best-known commentators.
The accompanying image shows neighbours gathered at the house of Christy O'Riordan, O'Neill Street, Clonmel in 1933, to hear the 1933 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final on Radio Éireann.
The photograph is reproduced here by kind permission of the family of Christy O'Riordan.
Former Radio Éireann Controller of Programmes Roibeard Ó Faracháin recalls some of the disagreements that arose between RTÉ and some of the national sporting bodies while trying to provide live radio coverage of GAA, soccer and rugby.
A listener accuses Éamonn de Barra of knowing a match was fixed.
Memories of Paddy Mehigan and the impact his commentaries had on the listening public.
Seán Óg recalls the fall-out in 1955, when in the course of his commentary he named a player who had just been sent off.
One of the first live sport commentaries anywhere in Europe was radio's coverage of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Semi-Final on 29 August 1926.
Catherina McKiernan wins her fourth silver medal in a row.
Greg Allen's commentary as Sonia O'Sullivan takes the silver medal in the five thousand metres at the 2000 Olympic Games when finishing just 23 hundredths of a second behind Gabriela Szabo.
Paul McGinley sinks a putt on the 18th hole at the Belfry to guarantee the half a point Europe needed to win the 2002 Ryder Cup.
In a dramatic finish, Ireland score a late try at Twickenham to beat England and win the Triple Crown in March 2006.
The closing moments of the 2006 Heineken Cup Final between Munster and Biarritz a passionate Michael Corcoran describes Munster becoming the champions of Europe.
Victory over Wales gives Ireland a first Grand Slam since 1948.
During the 1983 All-Ireland Senior Football Final, Mick Dunne does not hold back in his description of this bad-tempered game between Dublin and Galway.
A typical Mick Dunne commentary on the 1979 All-Ireland Hurling Final between Kilkenny and Galway.
In June 1988, Ireland had qualified for their first major soccer championship final, and faced England in their first game. Gabriel Egan and Noel King were the commentators for RTÉ Radio.
Gabriel Egan is there at the 1990 World Cup to describe the penalty shoot-out between Ireland and Romania.
Ireland v England at Lansdowne Road: shortly after Ireland score, the game has to be abandoned when England fans go on the rampage.
At a packed Dalymount Park, Ireland faces England in a World Cup qualifier.
Australian Herb Elliott sets a new world record for the mile of 3:54.5. Phil Greene recalls this event and his commentary.
A life-long Shamrock Rovers fan, Phil Greene tells Gay Byrne of his love for the club and about the accusations of bias in his commentary.
On a 'Late Late Show' special, Michael O'Hehir tells Gay Byrne about his audition to be a commentator while still at school, and about advice he got from the BBC's Tommy Woodroffe on practising in the bath.
The problems encountered by Michael O'Hehir when broadcasting the 1947 All-Ireland Football final from New York.
Michael O'Hehir discusses the special relationship he has with his listeners.
Michael O'Hehir picks out Foinavon who goes on to win the race.
Jimmy Magee recalls commentating as a child for his next door neighbour on a variety of imaginary games that the young Magee was also playing in!
Barry McGuigan beats Eusebio Pedroza on points to take the title as featherweight champion of the world.
Jimmy Magee commentating on John Treacy's Olympic silver win at the Los Angeles Olympics, 1984.
When a streaker appeared on the pitch at the Leinster Senior Hurling Final in 2003, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh included him in his commentary.
During a National Football League quarter final between Dublin and Cork in 1987, Cork failed to take to the pitch for extra time.
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh tells Pat Kenny about his audition to become a commentator for Gaelic games.
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh manages to tell listeners about the Annals of the Four Masters completed in 1616 AD during his commentary on an All-Ireland Senior Football Final between Dublin and Donegal.
Colm Murray heads to Thurles to meet horse racing commentator Des Scahill at work. Scahill recalls his commentaries on Secreto's Derby win and Dawn Run's Gold Cup win.
Secreto, trained by David O'Brien, just beats El Gran Senor, trained by David's father Vincent O'Brien, to win the Derby at Epsom. Des Scahill commentates on this Secreto victory.
Des Scahill commentates on the great finish of Dawn Run in winning the Gold Cup.
Eddie Macken rides Schalkaar to win a grand prix in Dublin twenty years after becoming the world's number one.
When Dermot Lennon becomes the first Irishman to win a gold medal at the World Equestrian Games in 2002, commentator Michael Slavin pays tribute to him in song.
Tá Seán Bán Breathnach ar bís i rith troid Katie Taylor i gcoinne Sofya Ochigava sna Cluichí Oilimpeacha i Londain. Tá áthas an domhain air nuair a bhaineann sí an cluiche 10-8.