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Eamonn Holmes bids farewell to Sky News

As the presenter exits the breakfast desk, Ivan Little reflects on his Sunrise years

The sun sets on Eamonn Holmes' Sunrise career on satellite TV today, with the Belfast-born presenter - who arrived on morning television in Britain as a fresh-faced Donny Osmond look-a-like and who's leaving with a few more wrinkles and grey hairs - vowing that the Sky is now his limit.

After 11 years anchoring the breakfast show, Eamonn departs saying that he's looking forward to new challenges, not to mention lie-ins.

Insiders said last night it would be a surprise if Sky producers don't spring a few surprises today on the former UTV presenter, who started his career with Good Evening Ulster in 1982 before heading across the water to present national programmes, many of them at the other end of the day.

A compilation of his greatest interview hits - and misses - was last night mooted as a possibility on Sky News Sunrise, though many of his most famous moments came on other channels, such as his unsettling encounter with taciturn trickster David Blaine and his fiery exchanges with huffy ex-pop idol David Cassidy.

A number of former colleagues at Sky said that Eamonn was not always the easiest of presenters to work with, but others put that down to professionalism rather than irascibility.

Eamonn has apparently no plans to say goodbye to ITV'S Good Morning show, which he regularly co-presents alongside his wife Ruth Langsford, with whom he also hosts a Channel 5 series called How the Other Half Lives.

And while it's not clear what Eamonn will be doing in the future away from the Sky TV cameras, thumb-twiddling is a definite non-starter.

He's in huge demand across all the networks and even the more churlish of his observers concede there are few TV performers who can match him for his quick-wit; his incisive questioning, his energy and his versatility. He'll also joke privately that he's never lost his devilish good looks. But he's had to work hard at it.

And his sensitivity about his appearance has caused him problems. His weight has been the butt, so to speak, of comedians' jokes and he even sought and got an apology from the BBC after impressionist Jon Culshaw portrayed him as a man whose appetite was so insatiable that he was prone to eating some of his trademark sofas.

Like many other TV presenters - and former ones like this writer - a lot of Eamonn's dark hues were at one time probably more attributable to bottles of hair dye rather than nature, but the novelty, like the colour, eventually wore off.

Earlier this year, a trimmer, healthier-looking Eamonn bounced back onto the TV screens after receiving two new hips. He joked that his wife had worn out the old ones in the bedroom and he said he was enjoying a new lease of life.

His likeability factor is such that when TV news reporters sought out one person to interview at a recent memorial service for Sir Terry Wogan, they all singled out Eamonn Holmes for his opinions of his fellow Irishman. And producers looking for a pithy one-liner for the endless stream of TV programmes listing the top 50 of this, that and the other, invariably make a beeline for Eamonn, especially if the subject matter is even remotely connected to sport.

Eamonn's love for Man United is boundless and he even turned up at the new Windsor Park in Belfast at the weekend to take part in the lap of legends before the opening of the transformed national stadium.

There's been speculation that Eamonn could use his time off from his early morning commitments to Sky News to find more wriggle room to indulge his passion for sport.

But people within the TV industry have said that Eamonn is also a perfect fit for quiz shows, which fill more and more of the schedules nowadays.

Eamonn, who has appeared on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire with his Red Devils friend Sir Alex Ferguson, already fronts a new dating show called It's Not Me It's You, along with Kelly Brook and Vicky Pattison.

But 15 years ago Eamonn cut his quizzing teeth on a UTV programme called All Mixed Up, which involved local contestants teaming up with local celebrities to win cash and other prizes.

I was in the latter bracket and afterwards asked my former UTV colleague Eamonn why he was bothering to come home to Northern Ireland to present a quiz which wouldn't break any ice in Britain.

He said he wanted to extend himself in all sorts of new directions and diversions.

A friend once said: "He's addicted to work. He can't say no to it. He certainly doesn't need the money."

And Eamonn also appears hooked on social media. His Twitter account is rarely inactive and his 923,294 followers have had 40,852 tweets to read down the years.

Well-wishers - and knockers - who've been inundating him with messages for days have all received replies. In one of them, Eamonn described leaving Sky as a "big wrench".

But he also used Twitter to find out what it was that his wife Ruth said yesterday on the Loose Women programme on ITV to amuse so many of his followers.

Eventually one woman told him: "She was talking about making love after marriage" but she added that it was her jumping about in her seat to act out the sex which made her laugh.

For once, there was no reply to that from Eamonn Holmes…

Old School Pictures: Eamonn Holmes: TV Presenter/celebrating his fourth birthday at the family home on New Lodge Road
Old School Pictures: Eamonn Holmes: TV Presenter/celebrating his fourth birthday at the family home on New Lodge Road
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