Jimmy Magee

Jimmy Magee (31 January 1935 – 20 September 2017) was an Irish sports broadcaster, known as The Memory Man, he spent over half a century in sports broadcasting, and presented radio and television coverage of the Olympic Games since 1968 and the FIFA World Cup since 1966. He was the longest-serving sports commentator.[1]

Jimmy Magee
James Magee

(1935-01-31)31 January 1935
New York City, United States
Died20 September 2017(2017-09-20) (aged 82)
ResidenceDublin, Ireland
OccupationSports broadcaster
EmployerRaidió Teilifís Éireann,
UTV (1995),
Channel 4 (1994)
Known forBeing the "Memory Man"
Home townCooley, County Louth
TitleMemory Man
Spouse(s)Marie (died in 1989)

Early and personal life

Jimmy Magee was born in 1935 in New York City[2] in the United States, to Patrick (Paddy) Magee and his wife Rose (née Mackin). The family returned to Ireland shortly after his birth. Magee and his three siblings were subsequently raised in Cooley, County Louth.[2] As a child Magee was influenced by the sports commentary of the legendary Gaelic games broadcaster Michael O'Hehir. He recalls commentating as a seven-year-old for his next-door neighbour on a variety of imaginary games that the young Magee was also playing in. He has also spoken of making up his own radio commentary in a field at a young age.[3]

After being educated locally Magee secured a full-time clerical post with Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway. He and his wife Marie married on 11 October 1955 and had five children: Paul, a soccer player with Shamrock Rovers F.C. (winning the League Cup in 1977), who died of motor neuron disease, aged 51 years in May 2008;[4] Linda (b. 1959); June (b. 1961); Patricia (b. 1962); and Mark (b. 1970).[5]

1989 was an emotionally trying year for Magee as his mother and wife died within months of each other. Marie dying at the young age of 54.

Magee died on 20 September 2017 after falling ill during the previous days.[6][7][8][9] Many tributes were made to him including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who said "“His commentaries were legendary and based on a breadth of sporting knowledge that was peerless". RTÉ Head of Sport Ryle Nugent said "It’s hard to put it into words, the man meant an inordinate amount to so many people, I think he was the soundtrack to many generations".[10][11]


While still working with Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway Magee began his broadcasting career. He started out as a reporter for the Radio Éireann programme Junior Sports Magazine. Other contributors on the programme were Jim Tunney and Peter Byrne, former football correspondent with The Irish Times. On leaving his Railway job, Magee presented a number of sponsored radio programmes before concentrating on sport. He was a producer, presenter and script writer for Radio Éireann's sponsored programmes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jimmy joined Raidió Teilifís Éireann in 1956. In 1966 Magee covered his first World Cup for RTÉ Radio. He did likewise for the 1970 FIFA World Cup before transferring to television for the 1974 FIFA World Cup finals. In all he has provided commentary at eleven World Cups – his latest commentary coming at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.[12][13]

Magee's column or quiz had appeared in every single publication of the Sunday World since the first edition in 1973.

Magee has also been a staple of RTÉ's coverage of the Olympic Games. Beginning at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, he has attended the eleven subsequent Olympic games as a commentator with RTÉ. In 2012, he commentated on the boxing for RTÉ at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, including Katie Taylor's gold medal-winning fight.[14][15] At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Magee provided commentary on the football.

From 1987 to 1998 Magee hosted Know Your Sport, a sports-themed quiz show, along with George Hamilton. Magee's broadcasting career also saw him provide commentary for over 200 international football games, 30 European Cup finals, multiple Tour de France cycle races, World Athletic Championships and boxing. He also narrated numerous videos on Sport in general such as The purple and Gold, Meath return to Glory, etc.

A freelancer Jimmy worked for Channel 4 in 1994 and signed for UTV in 1995 on a three-year contract where a lifetime ambition of commentating on All Ireland Finals was achieved. He commentated on three finals in both hurling and football.

He launched his memoir, Memory Man, in 2012.[1][16]

Some of Magee's one-liners in commentaries have become famous or infamous (what are affectionately known in the broadcasting industry as Colemanballs after the famed commentating clangers of BBC broadcaster David Coleman).

Awards and honours

In 1972 Magee won a Jacob's Award for his radio sports commentaries. In 1989, he was the subject of a special tribute show on The Late Late Show.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the International Olympic Committee presented him with a replica of its torch.[14][17][18]

Further reading

  • McGoldrick, Seán. Jimmy Magee: The Official Biography – I Remember it Well. Dublin: Blackwater Press, 2000. ISBN 1-84131-494-3.
  • Memory Man. 2012.


  1. Bray, Allison (7 September 2012). "'Memory Man' Magee is like a grandad to me, says proud Katie". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  2. McGoldrick, p. 1.
  3. The Late Late Show. 7 September 2012. Magee appeared alongside Ireland's London Olympic boxing heroes.
  4. Murphy, Sean (9 May 2008). "Jimmy says Goodbye". Irish Daily Star. p. 2..
  5. McGoldrick, p. 7.
  6. "Legendary RTE sports commentator Jimmy Magee dies, aged 82". Irish Independent. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  7. "Veteran sports broadcaster Jimmy Magee dies at the age of 82". The 42. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  8. "RTÉ sports great Jimmy Magee passes away". RTE Sport. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  9. "'They say you should never meet your heroes, but Jimmy Magee was an exception'". Irish Independent. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  10. "'He really was different class' - Tributes pour in for broadcasting great Jimmy Magee". The 42. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  11. "'I was standing there thinking, I am President, but Jimmy Magee is king': Mary McAleese". Irish Examiner. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  12. Black, Fergus (2 June 2010). "RTÉ hopes Ossie and squad will spur fans to back home team". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  13. O'Malley, Carl (2 June 2010). "RTÉ roll out big guns for their 56 live games". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  14. Lynch, Andrew (10 August 2012). "Ireland's other big Games winner – Jimmy Magee: Out for the count after being shunned for the World Cup, the memory man's fighting fit again, says Andrew Lynch". Evening Herald. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  15. Freyne, Patrick (11 August 2012). "Veteran broadcaster shows deft touch with colourful and unique commentary". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  16. McGreevy, Ronan (7 September 2012). "'Privileged' Taylor launches Magee memoir 'Memory Man'". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  17. "Olympic flame warms up a damp summer". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  18. "Jimmy Magee honoured by the International Olympic Committee". RTÉ Sport. RTÉ. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.

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