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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

Con Houlihan: “A man who will misuse an apostrophe is capable of anything”

Jimmy Deenihan TD praised the late sportswriter’s “warmth, wit, intellect, talent for observation, and his deep love of his native county Kerry.”

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

JIMMY DEENIHAN TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has paid tribute to the late Con Houlihan, who died early on Saturday morning, as a ‘giant of journalism and commentary.’

“Con Houlihan was a great sports writer who brought the game to life for his readers and was a towering figure in sports journalism for many decades.

“It is fair to say that he  raised the bar for sports journalism, often referencing things outside of sport – like art or literature – to add to his commentary on a particular game.

“Con was also a respected writer and critic on the arts, working with the Irish Press for many years. Though he had been ill in the last number of years he kept writing until very recently.

“I personally got to know Con Houlihan when I was involved, with Maurice Healy, in the making of a documentary about him. Whilst I had always known him as sports and arts commentator, at that time I saw at first hand his warmth, wit, intellect, talent for observation, and his deep love of his native county Kerry.

“I would like to extend my sympathies to Con’s family and many friends on his passing.”

GAA president Liam O’Neill said: “Con made a massive contribution to Irish sports writing over so many years covering all codes but bringing a particularly acute observational eye to Gaelic games and football in particular through his Castleisland and Kerry connections.

“His was revered by young and old for the consistent quality of his writing and the Irish sporting landscape will be a lesser place in his absence, without his incredible turn of phrase and wit.

“I pass on my sympathies to his family and wide circle of friends on behalf of the wider GAA family.”

Tip of the iceberg: Some of Con Houlihan’s best words…

On GAA supporters: “The hard core of those who follow Dublin Gaelic Football are like a little army.

“They stand in the same spot on The Hill and they drink in the same pubs. The pattern has a little changed in recent years: Their favourite pubs used to be in Fairview; now most of that little army converge on Mulligans’, on Poolbeg Street, after Croke Park. After the bigger games, they overflow the old pub and take up much of the street.

“This, of course, is illegal but there is nothing wrong with it. Kerry people drink there, too. And Mulligans’ has been known as the pub where many romances begin and where some romances end. Kerry’s followers for years used to drink in The Shakespeare on Parnell Street.

“There, after a game you would see a row of pints on the long counter all ready for topping up. The followers now tend to drink in Moran’s on Gardiner Street, or in The Merchant on Merchant’s Quay, or in Chaplin’s on Hawkins Street.

“Whether in victory or defeat you can always expect great craic between the two lots of partisans. Dublin’s hard core have become accustomed to losing but they live in hope. What’s another year..?

On his profession: “There was far more integrity in newspapers and among writers twenty or thirty years ago. Most reporters in the ’70′s and ’80′s had served their time in a local newspaper, which conditioned them to be honest and fair.

“You couldn’t turn someone over in a small town because you would be ostracised. Nowadays in Dublin, as soon as a young pup sees his name in print, he reckons he’s made it.

“There’s a few dirt-birds out there, maybe more so in the Sunday newspapers. Some have little talent but an awful lot of neck. 30 years ago, they wouldn’t last a week. I think daily newspaper journalism is a more honest pursuit. The best writers work on the daily beat.

“That’s why I’m with the Sunday World.”

On writing: “The worst thing for any writer (is) to be ignored.”

On language: “Speaking in the company of other Gaelic speakers in West Kerry I’d feel very uninhibited. My pronunciation in English is a bit suspect, but not so in Gaelic. English is a funny language, but I love it of course. I grew up speaking Hiberno English: English woven on a Gaelic loom.”

On the Evening Press: “Of course many of my happiest hours were in the context of The Evening Press. I loved that paper. Usually I worked the column out in my head during the night – occasionally in some congen ial pub – and got up about four in the morning and wrote it.

“By eight o’clock it was in the safe hands of the Sports Editor, Tom O’Shea, and I was in my favourite corner in The White Horse – the corner nearest the quay.

“There I loved to read The Sporting Life and I sustained myself with a glass of milk mildly tinctured with brandy. So I had something in common with The Queen Mother: at eight every morning that same paper was brought to her bed accompanied by a large measure of gin and a bottle of tonic water.

On Italia ’90: “I missed Italia 90, I was in Italy at the time.”

Finally: “A man who will misuse an apostrophe is capable of anything.”

Tributes pour in for writer and journalist Con Houlihan >

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