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Tributes pour in for leading GAA writer Micheal McGeary


By Jim Gracey

Published 25/01/2016

Top scribe: Micheal McGeary who passed away at the
Top scribe: Micheal McGeary who passed away at the weekend

An impeccably observed minute's silence prior to Saturday night's McKenna Cup Final perfectly demonstrated the respect and regard within the GAA community for former Belfast Telegraph and Sunday life sportswriter Micheál McGeary, who passed away earlier in the day, aged 68, after a brief illness, in Craigavon Area Hospital.

Friends and admirers will gather today for his 11am funeral at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, near his home on the shores of Lough Neagh at Maghery in Co Armagh.

Among many tributes paid to a popular writer came this one from Derry selector Tony Scullion who made a point of seeking out reporters covering the final to sympathise at the loss of a colleague.

The 1993 All-Ireland winner said: "It's a sad occasion that puts the GAA and sport into perspective.

"A man who was a credit to his profession, Micheál McGeary… what a gentleman and one I held in the utmost respect. He was about in my playing days, reporting on matches in the press and giving his comments. He interviewed me a few times, I got to know him and he became a great friend of mine.

"Micheál was a pure GAA man and I would like this opportunity to pass on my respects to his family.

"He was a great, great man and the world will be a poorer place for his loss."

Micheál held the distinction of being of the original 1988 launch team of Sunday Life, alongside colleague and former chief sub and deputy editor Dave Culbert, who passed away last Monday.

In fact, Micheál was the first appointment to the Sunday Life sports reporting team, head-hunted by then Editor Ed Curran from his post at the Irish News as one of the foremost authorities on Gaelic sports in newspaper journalism and his capture showed the new paper meant business.

A versatile writer, he also reported on his other sporting passions, rugby and boxing.

Michael covered the Ulster rugby team through its transition from amateur days to the professional era and also the Ireland team through their Six Nations and World Cup campaigns.

In boxing, he covered bouts great and small from the amateur championships in Belfast's Dockers Club to the world title fights of Barry McGuigan and Dave Boy McAuley in the 80s golden era of boxing here.

He travelled to Las Vegas for Barry's unsuccessful open-air world title defence against Steve Cruz in the Ceasar's Palace car park in 1986.

He remained a friend and admirer of Barry into management and he was especially close to former Olympic and Commonwealth boxing medallist Hugh Russell, a photographic colleague on the Irish News.

Micheal, who was educated at St Patrick's College in Armagh, actually started his working life at the former Goodyear tyre factory in Craigavon. He could talk knowledgably about any sport and to any sports person and it was a lifetime ambition fulfilled when he landed a job on the sports desk of the Irish News.

He retired early after a spell on the Belfast Telegraph in 2009 but continued working as a freelance in the Gaelic Games field, his first love and specialist subject.

An engaging character, Micheál's face and name were known at club and county grounds across Ireland and his proudest moment came as he reported on the historic All Ireland win by his native Armagh against Kerry in 2002.

He was a founder member and leading light of the Gaelic Writers Association, working to improve the lot of journalists covering games in terms of facilities and access to players and managers and to increase the column inches and airtime given to Gaelic sports.

His and the association's success in achieving those aims was recognised in tributes from two senior figures in the sport.

Ulster Council director Danny Murphy said: "Micheál was for three decades one of the best known and most widely read Gaelic sports journalists, setting a standard that led to the expanded coverage we enjoy today."

Martin McAviney, Ulster Council President, added: "Micheál was indeed a driving force in modern Gaelic sports journalism. His presence and opinions will be sadly missed."

Sport was Micheál's working life but his close knit family took precedence over all. He is survived by wife Olive, daughters Susan, Olive and Sarah, and brothers Brian, a farmer, and Seamus, a teacher in Barcelona.

Belfast Telegraph

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