A most con­ge­nial com­pan­ion whose wit and wis­dom shone through

Irish Examiner - Sport - - OBITUARY - Ed­mund Van Es­beck

Fred Cog­ley, who died on June 14, just a few weeks short of his 83rd birth­day, made an outstanding con­tri­bu­tion to Irish sport in his ca­pac­ity as jour­nal­ist and broad­caster.

The at­ten­dance at his fu­neral mass in St Joseph’s Church in Terenure was a tes­ti­mony to the es­teem in which he was held both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. The con­gre­ga­tion in­cluded peo­ple from across the whole sport­ing spec­trum in Ire­land as well as his col­leagues and friends in the news me­dia.

He was born in Dublin in 1934, the only child of Mitchel and Muriel Cog­ley, and ed­u­cated at St Mary’s Col­lege Rath­mines.

He ex­celled at sport dur­ing his school days rep­re­sent­ing his school in rugby, ath­let­ics and cricket. In his sec­ond year on the se­nior cup team he was se­lected to play for Le­in­ster in the rugby schools in­ter­provin­cial se­ries and also played cricket for Ire­land at school­boy level.

On leav­ing school, in the natural order of things, he joined the St Mary’s Col­lege Club and that was the be­gin­ning of what was to be­come a life­long affin­ity. Inevitably, the de­mands of his pro­fes­sion cur­tailed his rugby ac­tiv­ity and his play­ing ca­reer with the club was of brief du­ra­tion, but he was a mem­ber of the se­nior team when the club made its first for­eign tour to Italy in 1954.

That he should have cho­sen jour­nal­ism was ut­terly ap­pro­pri­ate as his grand­fa­ther, af­ter whom he was named, and his fa­ther Mitchel were both ac­com­plished jour­nal­ists.

His grand­fa­ther, a notable repub­li­can, served time in jail for his prin­ci­ples. Mitchel was for many years sports edi­tor of the Irish In­de­pen­dent and along with his ad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties wrote about the ma­jor sport­ing events of the day.

It could be said that jour­nal­ism was in Fred’s blood and in­deed as a teenage school­boy he made his first con­tri­bu­tion to the then Ra­dio Éire­ann.

Af­ter leav­ing school he joined the ed­i­to­rial staff of The Irish Times and three years later he moved to the Evening Her­ald where he wrote a regufred lar sports col­umn along with his other du­ties. He was one of the orig­i­nal con­trib­u­tors to the ju­nior sports mag­a­zine pro­gramme on Ra­dio Éire­ann in the 1950s that was pre­sented by the for­mer Irish Olympic fencer Harry Thul­lier. An­other young man on that pro­gramme was, like Fred, on the foothills of a dis­tin­guished ca­reer, Jimmy Magee.

Fred sub­se­quently moved to the then Teleifís Éire­ann and be­came sports edi­tor in 1963.

By then he had also be­come the sta­tion’s lead­ing rugby com­men­ta­tor and for the bet­ter part of half a cen­tury his was the voice that came across the air­waves dur­ing Ire­land’s rugby cam­paign an­nu­ally. His first overseas as­sign­ment in that role was to re­side among his hap­pi­est mem­o­ries. He was one of only three Irish jour­nal­ists to travel with the Irish rugby team on their first tour of Aus­tralia in 1967. It was an his­toric oc­ca­sion in that Ire­land won the Test match in Syd­ney by 11-5, only the sec­ond time one of the five na­tions coun­tries had won a match in the south­ern hemi­sphere. France had beaten South Africa in 1964 in South Africa.

be­came head of sport in RTÉ in 1972, suc­ceed­ing Micheál Ó hei­thir.

He cov­ered the Olympic Games in Mu­nich in 1972 and sub­se­quently was in­volved in the ad­min­is­tra­tive el­e­ment of the cov­er­age of nu­mer­ous ma­jor sport­ing events in­clud­ing other Olympic Games and the soc­cer World Cup. By then, his voice was well known to the Irish rugby pub­lic through his rugby com­men­taries and as the sta­tion’s lead­ing com­men­ta­tor he trav­elled widely with the Irish team overseas.

He was in New Zealand and Aus­tralia for the in­au­gu­ral Rugby World Cup in 1987 and sub­se­quently in South Africa for the same event in 1995. He was also in Ja­pan for Ire­land’s first tour of that coun­try in 1985. Shortly be­fore that tour he was the com­men­ta­tor when Ire­land won the Triple Crown and Cham­pi­onship with Michael Kier­nan’s drop goal against Eng­land in the last minute and that to­gether with Ire­land’s Triple Crown win in 1982 were high­lights of what was by any stan­dard a splen­did ca­reer. Although syn­ony­mous with rugby Fred also com­men­tated on golf dur­ing his time in RTÉ.

His good hu­mour and pleas­ing per­son­al­ity made him a most con­ge­nial com­pan­ion on those overseas as­sign­ments and he light­ened many an oc­ca­sion with his jokes and anec­dotes, of­ten at his own ex­pense.

Af­ter he re­tired from RTÉ in 1999, Fred con­tin­ued to com­men­tate for Se­tanta and thus the voice that had be­come so fa­mil­iar to the Irish rugby pub­lic was still heard. While ob­vi­ously he will be best re­mem­bered for his ra­dio and tele­vi­sion com­men­taries he also through the years made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the writ­ten word. He wrote a weekly col­umn for the Sun­day Telegraph for sev­eral years. In the 1970s he edited Fred Cog­ley’s Rugby An­nual and in 2000 he wrote the cen­te­nary his­tory of St Mary’s Col­lege Rugby Club, a true labour of love for a man for whom sport was such a cen­tral part of his life.

Five years ago, Fred pro­duced a mem­oir Voices From My Past in col­lab­o­ra­tion with jour­nal­ist Des Berry. In that Fred’s wit and wis­dom shone through in his re­flec­tions on his stellar ca­reer.

It was a source of great sat­is­fac­tion to Fred that his son Niall be­came the fourth mem­ber of his fam­ily to em­brace jour­nal­ism as a ca­reer. Niall be­came head of sport in RTÉ be­fore mov­ing to Se­tanta and sub­se­quently to TV3.

Two years ago Fred’s el­dest grand­child, Clodagh, suf­fered very se­ri­ous in­juries in the Berke­ley tragedy. Fred was a great source of sup­port to her as she showed ad­mirable courage and re­silience in the face of such ad­ver­sity.

Fred is sur­vived by his wife Madeleine, two sons, David and Niall, two daugh­ters, Michelle and Denise and seven grand­chil­dren.

“It could be said that jour­nal­ism was in Fred’s blood

THREE AMI­GOS: Fred Cog­ley, Micheal O’muircheartaigh, and Jimmy Magee, three of the great voices of Irish sport. Cog­ley (right) at the Irish Open at Fota Is­land Golf Club.

Fred Cog­ley opens the first Mi­dle­ton fes­ti­val in 1966.

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