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Obituary: Gordon Hanna - Sports journalism loses star name

By Jim Gracey

Sports writing in Northern Ireland has lost one of its top operators and most popular figures with the passing of Gordon Hanna at the NI Hospice at Whiteabbey yesterday, aged 70.

A trouper right to the end, Gordon, typically, defied illness to carry on working in the sports arena until it was no longer physically possible in the summer just past.

His by-line was impossible to miss. In a career spanning over 50 years, he filed reports to every newspaper circulating in these islands and his voice was also heard on radio and television as he chronicled the fortunes of the Northern Ireland international football team and Irish League clubs, at home and abroad.

His own home was in Lisburn, and previously Hillsborough, but at heart he was a Lurgan man, having been born and educated there, learning his trade both in football and in journalism in the town.

A press box veteran of football at the highest level, including Northern Ireland's 1982 and 86 World Cup finals, his lifelong passion in the game was reserved for his home town Glenavon FC and, knowing his time was short, their Irish Cup final victory in May, which he reported upon, meant the world to him.

Born in May, 1944, Gordon grew up playing football and cricket in post-war Lurgan, inspired by the great title-winning Glenavon team of the late 50s and its Holy Trinity of Denver, Jones and Cush (and still ended up playing for Portadown.)

His love for sport led him into a journalistic career with the Lurgan Mail local paper, then on to an innovative Belfast weekly called Cityweek that might have flourished but for the Troubles which killed it.

He was Editor of the Ulster Star newspaper in Lisburn and Northern Ireland football correspondent for the Weekly News and later, the Sunday People.

A great all-rounder, he was, in later life, golf correspondent of Sunday Life, and throughout his 50 years in the profession, a regular contributor to the Belfast Telegraph, having been a close friend and confidante of our late, great Sports Editor Malcolm Brodie.

Top footballers were also among his closest pals, most notably Gerry Armstrong, Pat Jennings and the late George Best.

Above all, a wonderful man to know and a terrific companion, Gordon is survived by wife Anne and daughter Judith, having been pre-deceased by PR Executive son Jonathan in 2006. Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised and will be included in a full tribute to a life well lived in tomorrow's edition.

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