- Lifestyle & Sports
- 20 Sep 17
The national treasure died last night at the age of 82 after a long illness.
The New York-born TV/radio star and best-selling author, who was raised in County Louth, first got into the broadcasting game all the way back in the mid-1950s.
And he was still going strong in recent years and memorably commented on Katie Taylor's Olympic gold win in 2012.
Jimmy Magee, whose extraordinary memory for sports trivia has led to his being dubbed the Memory Man, had the distinction of being the longest-serving sports commentator in the English-speaking world.
He started his career in 1956, the year that Ronnie Delany won the 1,500 metres gold medal at Melbourne.
He covered every Olympic Games from 1972 (and the London Games in 2012 were his eleventh!) and every soccer World Cup since 1974 until 2008.
Jimmy achieved worldwide notice in Munich in 1972 when he managed to breach security in the Olympic village to cover the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes. This incredible scoop was picked up by CBS in the United States and then by every television station around the world.
But what was perhaps the most striking aspect of such an accomplished career is how Jimmy managed to find the strength to keep up his cheerful persona on air as he endured immeasurable sorrow in his personal life.
His beloved wife, Marie, died unexpectedly in 1989 and his son Paul, himself a footballer and sports broadcaster, tragically lost his battle with motor neuron disease in 2008 at the early age of fifty-one.
His love of all sports kept him going during those darks days in his personal life. He once played five-a-side football with Gert Müller, almost came to blows with Nigel Benn, and, in his later years, he loved watching Katie Taylor in the ring, up close and personal when he commentated on her fights.
Jimmy reckoned Katie is Ireland’s greatest contemporary sportsperson.So impressed was he with the Bray woman's fighting skills that he personally asked Katie Taylor to launch the first of two books he later in life co-wrote with Hot Press' senior editor, Jason O'Toole.
Both books, 'Memory Man' and 'Different Class' were best-sellers and, ironically, one of Jimmy's books lost out on the Sports Book of the Year Award to the very same Katie Taylor back in 2012. But he was sanguine about it, saying that Katie's deserved to scoop the top award after her heroic efforts in London.
O'Toole recorded over 50 hours of interviews for the two books they worked on together.
"Jimmy Magee was a true gent. I remember him once stopping mid-conversation in one of our very long chats when he spotted a woman in destress, balling her eyes out. And he immediately went over to comfort her. He was the type of person who genuinely cared about others. He would go out of his way to help people. He was a kind and generous spirit," O'Toole recalls.
"Jimmy had been present at the most iconic sporting moments in both world and Irish sport and I loved hearing his unique insight into these major sporting moments as we worked on those two books together.
"His passion, his high level of enthusiasm for sport never once left him for a single minute during our long chats.
"He was, indeed, the Memory Man. I still don't know how he managed to remember so much detail about games long past - I never caught him out once, despite mischievously trying my best on more than one occasion.
" I, along with countless others, will miss him."
The Leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin TD has said that the passing of iconic sports broadcaster, Jimmy Magee is a major loss to the world of Irish sport, and has expressed his deepest sympathies to his children, Linda, Mark, June and Patricia.
“Jimmy’s passion for sport, of any description, was legendary. His encyclopaedic knowledge of sports fact and trivia quickly and rightly earned him the nickname of The Memory Man.
“As a boxing fan myself, Jimmy’s commentary of seminal Irish boxing milestones was legendary, in particular the 1992 and 2016 Olympics with Irish boxers claiming many Olympic medals.
“Jimmy encapsulated all that is good in Irish sports broadcasting. A quick wit, he respected the players and they, in turn, respected him.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Jimmy’s family at this sad time. He bore the sad loss of his wife, Marie and son, Paul with great dignity.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.