Legendary sports commentator Jimmy Magee passed away at the age of 82 yesterday following a brief illness.
‘Memory Man’ was born in New York city and raised in Co Louth, and had a distinguished career as a sports commentator which spanned from 1956 to 2012.
Magee commentated on 11 Olympic Games and 12 World Cups, as well as numerous All-Ireland finals, and was highly regarded for his quick wit and encyclopedic knowledge of sport.
He also co-hosted RTÉ Television quiz Know Your Sport from 1987 to 1998.
Unsurprisingly, everyone from President Higgins to Shay Given have been paying tribute to the iconic commentator, and we decided to remember him through five magic sports moments he brought to life.
“The little man with the great heart”
1984, Los Angeles Olympics
Most people who remember watching John Treacy win a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics remember Jimmy Magee’s accompanying commentary.
Treacy started somewhat slowly, but began to overtake those around him around the 20km mark, and entered the top six. Portugal’s Carlos Lopes had a comfortable lead at the front, and British runner Charlie Spedding was in second place until Treacy overtook him with 150 metres remaining in the race.
Enter Jimmy Magee.
“They’re going for silver, they’re going for gold,” he reported excitedly.
“John Treacy has one hundred metres to go. In the past Ireland have won bronze medals with John Caldwell, Freddie Gilroy, ‘Socks’ Byrne, Jim McCourt, Hugh Russell.
“They’ve won golds with Pat O’Callaghan twice, Bob Tisdall, Ron Delaney. They’ve won silvers with John McNally, Fred Tiedt, Wilkins and Wilkinson and for the thirteenth time an Irish medal goes to John Treacy. The little man with the great heart.”
“The Little Man From Clones Is the Featherweight Champion of the World”
1985, Loftus Road
Barry McGuigan finally got his world title shot in 1985 at Loftus Road Stadium – the home of QPR – against WBA featherweight champion, Eusebio Pedroza of Panama.
The Monaghan boxer (35-32-3) came out on top on the judges’ scorecards after 15 exciting rounds, having sent Pedroza to the canvas in round seven, and the Panama boxer was saved by the bell on more than one occasion during the bout.
“Barry McGuigan is the new WBA world champion!” Magee said jubilantly as the unanimous decision was announced, and ‘Memory Man’ was one of the first men to interview an ecstatic McGuigan in the ring afterwards.
“Ah Jimmy, it’s a dream come true for me!”
“Different class … DIFFERENT CLASS!”
Jimmy Magee provided the voice-over for one of the greatest goals ever scored.
Magee – who commentated on 12 World Cups (including England’s triumph in 1966) – provided commentary as Diego Maradona danced past the English defence in the 1986 World Cup semi-final, in one of the most iconic football matches of all time.
The Argentine magician scored two of the most famous goals in history – the ‘Hand of God’ and the ‘Goal of the Century’ and many Irish people remember Magee’s commentary of the latter.
“Enrique to Maradona. Ah, different class. Different class! Maradona. Diego Amando Maradona! He’s on the World Cup pedestal.”
“Cordoba is down! Bernard Dunne is the champion of the world!”
In March 2009, Magee produced yet another moment of iconic commentary when Dublin boxer Bernard Dunne faced WBA Super Bantamweight world champion Ricardo Cordoba in the O2 Arena, Dublin.
Dunne had won the International Boxing Council Super Bantamweight (2005) and European Boxing Union Super Bantamweight (2007) titles respectively, and his world title bout against Cordoba would eventually win the ESPN Fight of the Year award.
Dunne produced a stunning 11th round KO in a thrilling fight in his home city, and both the stadium and the commentary box erupted as the victorious Irish boxer sank to his knees in the ring.
“Cordoba is down! Bernard Dunne is the champion of the world! Bernard Dunne is the champion of the world! Fantastic Bernand fantastic!”
“I bet there’s a tear in your eye wherever you’re watching this”
2012, London Olympics
Katie Taylor won gold in the 2012 London Olympics, further cementing her status as one of the greatest Irish athletes of all time.
The Bray boxer beat Russia’s Sofya Ochigava 10-8 in the final bout, becoming the first ever Olympic female lightweight champion in the process.
“I bet there’s a tear in your eye wherever you’re watching this,” Jimmy Magee said behind the microphone as Taylor stormed to victory.
“There’s nothing wrong with tears; tears are often shed in joy.”
“Gold is precious, and so is it’s current winner,” he added as Taylor received her medal.
“She is just unbeatable,” he would later write in his memoir ‘Memory Man.’
“In my opinion she is Ireland’s greatest contemporary sportsperson.”