Colm Smith — A rare ta­lent and true mas­ter of his craft

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES / RESULTS / ROUND-UP - DER­MOT GILLEECE

COLM SMITH is gone from us after a long ill­ness. As a con­tem­po­rary of his, right from our first out-of-town mark­ing to­gether, I’ve been think­ing of the spe­cial ta­lent he brought to our craft.

Few sports writ­ers I’ve known had his gift for cap­tur­ing the very essence of a com­pet­i­tive event. It was some­thing I be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate right from that col­leges GAA match we cov­ered down Long­ford way nearly 60 years ago.

Lit­tle more than a decade later, he had ad­vanced to the for­mi­da­ble task of re­port­ing on rugby in­ter­na­tion­als for this news­pa­per, en­tail­ing the re­porter’s neme­sis of a tight, Satur­day dead­line. He was also the only Ir­ish scribe to cover reg­u­lar events on the Euro­pean Tour for the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent, while the rest of us con­cen­trated on the am­a­teur scene here at home.

Per­haps it was his gift as a de­cent ten­nis player which seemed to give Colm an edge. Ei­ther way, his in­sight into sport­ing en­deav­our was es­pe­cially ev­i­dent in his Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent re­port of the his­toric US Masters tri­umph by Tiger Woods in 1997. I re­mem­ber read­ing it with a mix­ture of ad­mi­ra­tion and envy.

The only time we ac­tu­ally worked to­gether was at the 1980 Open Cham­pi­onship at Muir­field, where Colm rep­re­sented the In­de­pen­dent and I was his as­sis­tant, look­ing after the Evening

Her­ald. Other­wise, we were ri­vals, and not al­ways friendly ones.

Still, there were mem­o­rable mo­ments. Among these was a shared so­lu­tion to the chal­lenge of com­plet­ing our re­ports on the 1989 Men’s Am­a­teur In­ter­na­tion­als at Gan­ton, in time to catch a flight home from Leeds-Brad­ford Air­port. On ex­plain­ing our dif­fi­culty to Mick McGin­ley, Paul’s fa­ther, he promptly pro­duced the an­swer: a mo­bile phone.

This was the orig­i­nal of the species, a big heavy lump which looked noth­ing like the im­ple­ment it has since be­come. So it was that Colm and I, re­plete with phone, grabbed a taxi and wrote and trans­mit­ted our re­ports from the back seat. We’d bro­ken new ground in work­ing con­di­tions.

I last saw him when he vis­ited the Ir­ish Open at Fota Is­land in 2014, when his strong, fit ap­pear­ance to­tally be­lied the is­sues which lay be­neath.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

The late Colm Smith

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