Magee insists Cooley influence led to his commentary career

SPORTS commentary legend Jimmy Magee has revealed that his love of commentary was brought to life in the Cooley Peninsula during his youth.

SPORTS commentary legend Jimmy Magee has revealed that his love of commentary was brought to life in the Cooley Peninsula during his youth.

The 75-year-old was born in New York in 1935 but soon moved to Ireland with his family, where he was reared in Greenore.

Speaking as part of documentary, "Jimmy Magee: A Different Class" on RT over Christmas, Jimmy - an honorary member of the Cooley Kickhams club - revisited the home and area which he grew up in and traced its influence on how it led to a career which has seen him cover every World Cup since 1966 and every Olympics since 1968.

Speaking about about childhood, Magee said it was "fantastic".

He said: "Lots of people hated their childhood but I loved it. I was into sports particularly, I tried everything and was good at nothing.

"We had a radio in our house and on Sunday Micheal O'Hehir would be on, it didn't matter who was playing. I realised that the greatest players didn't last a lifetime but the commentators lasted forever."

On a visit back to the peninsula, Jimmy visited Grange Church, which he said was "so much part of my life" having sang in the choir and served Mass there.

He also visited Bradley's pharmacy in Carlingford as his first ever job was in the previous chemist on site.

"My father died leaving us as a family of four and I was only a child myself. Somebody had to work and I was the one. Somebody said there was a job going in the chemist in Carlingford and it took off from there. That was '51 or '52."

On his return to the peninsula, he met old friend Teresa Carroll, who described him as "the greatest rogue ever known." He then visited Greenore, where he worked as a clark in the railway after leaving the chemist.

That job was to prove crucial for him as he was soon transferred to Dublin, where he met and married his wife Marie in 1955.

While work was steady for Jimmy, his real passion was for commentary though and after countless requests for an audition with Radio ireann, he finally got his wish in May 1956 when he earned a stint in their GPO offices.

"It was such a school of learning," he said.

"I called time on the rail job to concentrate on radio work and in the early Sixties I got a run compiling charts. My first show was in October ‘62 and the first number one was Elvis Presley's She's Not You."

It was the World Cup and the Olympics that really brought Jimmy to national prominance though, earning him the title "The Memory Man", a nickname he says he did not give himself.

He said one of his major highlights was in the late ‘Nineties when, during a stint with UTV, he covered the All-Ireland football and hurling finals for three consecutive years.

Speaking of the experience, Jimmy said: "I had achieved the ambition I had walking around the fields in North County Louth, I had covered the All-Ireland finals and I still believe I'll do it again."

Of course, Jimmy's life was not without its tragedies. His wife and mum died within a couple of months of each other in 1989 and in 2008 he lost his eldest son Paul - who worked in Dundalk for Boylesports - to motor neuron disease.

He said the latter was one of the hardest experiences he has ever known.

"I spoke at his funeral and I hope I'll never have to do it again as it's not a natural order. I knew I was going to break but I didn't allow it to happen. I looked at the coffin and said Paul, if I ever asked you for anything then I'm asking you now, and I felt the lump in my throat and I finished it."

It hasn't been all bad for Jimmy though. He has achieved lifelong dreams and even admitted that if he had to die then he would like it to be on the air.

He said: "If you only knew the dreams in that little boy's head all those years ago. Don't know how lucky I am. I will never retire because even if they retire me I'll find something else to do."

Jimmy Magee: A Different Class is available to watch on the RT Player.

l Jimmy Magee