Great sports commentary conveys the highs and lows of emotion that sport is capable of producing.
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.