News

Sad news as Bill O’Herlihy passes away

NewsBy Karl Doyle
Bill O’Herlihy RIP
Bill O’Herlihy RIP

Ireland’s most beloved sports anchor Bill O’Herlihy has died at the age of 76.

It is believed he died of a heart attack, but that has not yet been confirmed.

Born in Cork, O’Herlihy became a journalist at 16, writing for the Cork Examiner. He first started working with RTE in 1965 and later worked on the programme 7 Days before, in 1973, he founded the O'Herlihy Communications Group – his successful PR firm.

Bill was RTE's chief sports presenter for major events such as the World Cup – covering 10 of them in total - the Olympic Games, the European Football Championships and European and World Track and Field Championships.

He suffered a heart attack in 1984 and battled against colon cancer in 2007, when he had a tumour removed, but overcame those health issues and continued broadcasting until his retirement last summer.

He won many broadcasting awards during his time, including ones for his presentation of the 1990 World Cup, as well as Irish Sports Journalist of the Year 2003, and in 2007 he was named the Irish Film and Television Academy's Television Personality of the Year.

Bill’s success, especially when it came to soccer coverage, was his ‘everyman’ style and ability to ask questions of the experts that the man and woman watching at home wanted answers to – while all the while imbuing proceedings with a wry sense of humour.

After he retired from his anchor role following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he said: “I’m not a bit sad by the way. It was my decision to retire, it wasn’t made for me, so I am going to go without a huge sense of loss.

“I’ll thank the lads because I piggy backed on their talent and their knowledge,” he stated, referring to his regular panel of guests that included Eamon Dunphy and John Giles.

“And then I’ll just say goodbye,” he added.

However, he eventually signed off with his classic phrases: "So we'll leave it there so. Okey-doke, goodnight and God bless."

RTE has released the following statement: 

The death has taken place of RTÉ broadcaster and journalist Bill O’Herlihy who passed away peacefully at home this morning. Bill was the much-loved presenter of RTÉ’s coverage of the Olympic Games, World Cups and European Football Championships. Last summer’s World Cup final between Germany and Argentina saw Bill retire after a television career spanning five decades.

Noel Curran, Director-General, RTÉ, said: “Everyone in RTÉ is devastated at today’s news. Bill O’Herlihy was a giant of the sporting and broadcasting worlds in this country. His contribution to broadcasting was utterly unique. For decades he was at the centre of some of Ireland’s greatest sporting moments. He never hid his emotions on those big occasions, from disappointment to utter joy, and for this he was greatly loved. But he was also a fantastic broadcaster and interviewer, getting the very best out of his interview panels and provoking debate and insight, and for this he was also hugely admired. Our sincere sympathies go to Bill’s wife Hillary, daughters Jill and Sally, grandchildren, family, friends and colleagues.”  

Born in Cork, Bill O’Herlihy became a journalist at 16, writing for the Cork Examiner. His first broadcast for RTÉ was a piece commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania off the Cork coast for Newsbeat in 1965. He later worked on 7 Days. In 1973, he founded the O'Herlihy Communications Group.

As RTÉ's chief sports presenter for major events, Bill led RTÉ’s coverage of several Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups, UEFA European Football Championships and European and World Track and Field Championships.

Bill O’Herlihy presented ten World Cups for RTÉ, including Brazil 2014, and ten Olympics Games. Bill also presented the first Rugby World Cup on RTÉ television as well as co-presenting the very first Sunday Game with Jim Carney in 1979.

BIll won a Jacob's award for his presentation of the 1990 World Cup, and was Irish Sports Journalist of the Year 2003. In 2007 he was named the Irish Film and Television Academy's Television Personality of the Year.

Bill anchored his final World Cup last year and was working on a new show for RTÉ One at the time of his passing.