With their idiosyncratic styles, Ó hEithir was in much the same mould as the late BBC legend Bill McLaren, aka ‘The Voice of Rugby’.
As well as their signature soundbites, they both had a uniquely old-school way of ignoring the bleedingly obvious and overlooking the (pretty) ugly in the interests of what they saw as protecting public decency. Decorum was the watchword, so much so that you’d be inclined to wonder what game they were looking at on occasion. ‘Argie-bargies in the line-out’ and ‘schemozzles in the small parallelogram’ have never seemed so harmless since. (One can only imagine how Micheál might have described the mass melee that saw seven sendings-off between Laois and Kildare last weekend.)
As Kevin Myers recalled in the ‘Irish Independent’ this week: ‘The greatest moment in Bill McLaren’s broadcasting career came at half-time at Twickenham in 1982 when a streaker ran across the pitch. “Uuagh!” he chortled in the half-Lallans that was his first tongue, “there’s a young fellow there, and he’s so excited he’s taken his shirt off, heugh heugh heugh.”
Myers mentioned by way of clarification that ‘The “young fellow” was in fact 21-year-old Erica Roe, the owner of two very large breasts; so large, indeed – chest-measurement 42 inches, bra-size 34 FF – that they had great trouble keeping up with her. Even when she stopped running, her mammaries only ceased bouncing several seconds later. Schoolboys interested in physics – and there are many – would have cited them as a perfect practical example of simple harmonic motion. But Bill McLaren never noticed either of them. Having spotted the “young fellow” without the shirt (for of course, only men are to be found on the rugby pitch), his mind returned to rugby from which it seldom strayed.”
*Footnote: On the weekend the great Scot delivered his last Six Nations commentary, in March 2002 at Lansdowne Road (the same stadium where he’d made his debut half-a-century before), the IRFU presented him with a piece of Waterford Crystal to mark the occasion. Asked what the best thing about his sporting life had been, he vouched, like a true Scotsman, “I’ve hardly ever had to pay to get in!” He’ll hardly get much hassle at the gate to the next world either.