Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh: "The game will speak to you"
If you want to be the best you must learn from the best so ‘Jeff and Kammy’s Journey to Croker’ could only start with one man - The Máistir himself. Their quest to discover how to commentate on GAA started with the legendary Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, whom they met deep in the heartbeat of his own people in Daingean Uí Chúis.
“Tá fáilte romhat, you’re very welcome,” said the soothing Voice of Gaelic Games when they arrived at Pairc an Aghasaigh, the gateway to an unknown sporting world.
It wasn’t long before they were left gobsmacked by Micheál’s famously encyclopaedic knowledge of his subjects, even though he was only commentating on an U15 game between Dingle and local rivals The Gaeltacht.
“He was talking about players like ‘his great, great grand-dad now, he was the first cab driver in Dingle!’ He’d done all that homework on these kids!” said an amazed Chris Kamara.
Ó Muircheartaigh may be retired after 62 years at the top of his game but his understanding that the club fuels the county means his knowledge of the youngsters’ seed, breed and generation was as impeccable as ever.
“The game will speak to you,” he reassured them and his lyricism, and the depth of his knowledge, quickly astounded them.
“The only commentators I could compare to him are Peter O’Sullevan or Michael O'Hehir when they did horse-racing, where they had that same legendary status,” observed Jeff Stelling.
In the Master’s hands the two GAA rookies quickly absorbed the intricacies of soling and hand-passing. “They learned quickly because they are interested,” the legendary Kerryman reflected.
“It was no problem to them because they have a passion for sport and, as I told them, if you’ve a passion for sport you’ll be constantly doing research unknown to yourself by meeting people and going places. I think that’s already there innately in Jeff and Kammy, which will stand to them.”
So what special tips did he give them? “I told them firstly that you have to be fair to the players,” Ó Muircheartaigh revealed. “It’s important to convey to the audience, either television or radio, what is actually happening, not what you’d like to see happening. If you stick to that you’ll never be biased in your approach.
“I also told them that if they couldn’t pronounce a name just to give the number,” he laughed, after listening to the British duo’s mangled attempts to pronounce his own surname, with Jeff exclaiming: “O Mother what?”
“I reminded them to mention the score often too because some people might just be tuning in and everyone wants to know what the score is,” he added.
For two men who usually commentate on soccer, he also wisely suggested having an assistant in the commentary box due to the frequency of scores. Ó Muicheartaigh always had one himself in the shape of his children over the years, particularly his youngest, physiotherapist Doireann, who still accompanies him to matches. “Doireann lasted the longest,” he laughed. “Her main function was to keep the score but she always knew the substitutes coming on and was very quick to spot things happening away from the action, which was a huge help to me.”
The visitors, he noted, were impressed by the quality of Dingle’s facilities and pitch. “The grass was kept as a good as you’d get anywhere and the pitch looked out on the sea. They’ll have plenty of splendid views in the coming weeks including the Hill of Howth behind Hill 16. I’m sure someone will tell them that’s where The Fianna, 2000 years ago, used to play the game.
“What also amazed them is that the players who will play in the All-Ireland will be a mixture of clubs and communities from all around their counties. They learned that a farmer, fisherman, doctor, engineer or a teacher can all come together, from different clubs, to represent their county. They couldn’t believe either that players don’t get paid nor look for it.”
He also regaled them with historical gems. When they admired the skill of soloing he explained it was invented by Sean Lavan of Kiltimagh who went on to run for Ireland in the 1924 and ‘28 Olympics. “Baller Lavan had great speed and one day in Croke Park no one could catch him so he hopped the ball off his toe and caught it, kept moving and hopped it again. The referee didn’t stop him and that is how the solo came about.”
Jeff and Kammy may have a long road ahead of them to reach Croker but, even after this brief meeting, Ó Muircheartaigh is optimistic about their chances of successfully commentating on GAA.
“They’ll do it justice because they’re willing to observe and learn,” he stressed. “They seemed delighted to be visiting all kind of clubs around the country. “I think it’ll be hilarious in one sense but I could see immediately they liked where they were. They are adventurers by nature, it wasn’t a strain on them. They have a natural curiosity about sport and they’re the type of people who’d have great fun wherever they went.
“They couldn’t stay because they had an engagement the following morning and were very professional like that,” he said, somewhat ruefully. “I suggested coming back to Paidi O Sé’s (pub) because he epitomised Gaelic football but I know if they went back there, and had a taste for drink, they’d still have been there the following day,” he chuckled. “That just wasn’t going to happen!”
Jeff and Kammy’s Journey to Croker will air each Monday at 5pm onwww.youtube.com/aiband AIB’s social channels.
Episode 2 ‘Jeff & Kammy Meet the Master’ is available to view here.