We are truly indebted to the late, great Weeshie Fogarty, says Killarney Advertiser Sport columnist Eamonn Fitzgerald
Weeshie at his beloved Fitzgerald Stadium in 2015 with the GAA McNamee Award and PPI Radio Gold Award. Pic: Eamonn Keogh.5
I am going to miss him; I miss him already for his infectious interest in sport.
Although we associate him with the GAA, his interest in all sports may not be evident to some of our readers. In his younger days he was very interested in basketball and he played with The Busby Babes in the Parish Hall a mere stone’s throw from his home in O’Sullivan’s Place.
They didn’t have any jerseys but that didn’t prove an obstacle for Weeshie. He wrote to Matt Busby explaining their predicament and the lack of sponsorship at that time. Not even the great Busby could refuse the Killarney man and it didn’t take long before a new set of jerseys were winging their way to Killarney. It was a long shot and a brave shot by Weeshie but his persistence paid off.
He was a lifelong follower of Manchester United and he had many friendly arguments with his son Kieran who supports Spurs.
His main interest in sport was the GAA in all its aspects, particulary Gaelic football. He was a loyal player and valued team member of the Legion, holding down almost every officer’s role in the club. How often did you hear him break in to an interview with the heart-filled comment, “that’s my own club, the Legion”? Yes, indeed, “my good friend” was another great phrase of his.
He won an O’Donoghue cup medal with Legion in 1967.
He had the distinction of playing with Kerry in all grades: minor, U-21 and junior, winning an All-Ireland medal in this grade in 1967. He also played senior as an understudy to Johnny Culloty, his near neighbour and fellow clubman. He won an All-Ireland Vocational final with the Kerry Techs on the same team as his fellow Legionnaire, the great and classy Sylvie O’Grady. He won three Kerry SFCs in a row with East Kerry and was the sub ‘keeper in the All-Ireland Club final which East Kerry won in its inaugural year (1971). Yours truly manned the posts for that historic win.
Having played so much football himself served him well in another facet of his life in the GAA. He was a top class referee and I was always very pleased to play in the games refereed by Weeshie. Not alone was he well versed in the rule book but this was also complemented by common sense.
He knew the different moods players brought to the game and made due allowance for weather conditions. He didn’t have to use disciplinary cards; he depended on common sense and respect players had for him. Mind you he was no softie and could deal with the dirty player with authority and with discretion. His motto was not to throw the rule book at the offending player when a page would suffice.
I often said to him that it was a joy to play in the games he refereed because you could be sure the game would flow. He was in charge for three All-Ireland football semi-finals, but never got to take charge of a final. That was a mistake by the GAA authorities.
Weeshie was a great collector of items of written reports of matches and match programmes. These stories, he deemed, were collectors items, which was another great phrase of his. When he finished his playing days with his club, he put his heart and soul into collecting the history of the Legion, culminating in the publication of the McNamee Award-winning ‘A Legion of Memories’, which outlined the first 50 years of the Legion club.
He won four McNamee Awards and in 2008 and in 2010 he won the National PPI Radio Award as National Sports Broadcaster of the year. That was a great honour and more kudos were to follow with his three publications: Off Mike/On Camera, Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan: A Man Before His Time and My Beautiful Obsession: Chasing the Kerry Dream.
Weeshie will be remembered with affection for what he did with Terrace Talk. He was there from the very start and created a special niche in broadcasting, originally in the company of his co-founder Liam Higgins. He travelled all over Kerry and throughout the whole country with that roving microphone in search of the inside story behind the mere statistic.
Like Mícheál O’Hehir and Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, he had a story to tell and he embellished many a match with his infectious passion for the games he was broadcasting. Listening to Terrace Talk from 6 to 8 every Monday night is a must for all lovers of sport and that reached a worldwide audience via the internet.
I really enjoyed his Wednesday night programme In Conversation where he interviewed the plain people of Ireland and switched on that microphone, letting the interviewee tell his/her own life story without interruption. Those were extra special. What he has done for future students of social history is incalculable. He brought to life the worlds of the plain people of Ireland.
Born in Cork, his family moved to Killarney when he was three months old, and Killarney was his home for 77 years. He was a psychiatric nurse in St Finan’s until his retirement in 1996. Then he started a new life of broadcasting for which we are truly indebted. He blew the whistle in his last match on Sunday last for the good Lord called for the ball. No injury time, no time added on. Bhí an t-am istigh agus fáilte mór roimh Weeshie ar Neamh.
Ard fhear ab ea Weeshie. Scribhneoir agus craoltóir den scoth. Fear ann féin leis na focail binn blasta. Slán abhaile Weeshie go dtí Achadh Dhá Eo is go gcuitítear do shaothar leat. Brón ar an mbás sé a dhubh ár gcroí-se.
Thanks for the memories. I am missing you already but the greatest loss of all is for his devoted wife, Joan, and Kieran, Carolann and Denise.