Brendan O Sullivan

A Man of the People - Weeshie at 70

March 14th, 2011
by Brendan O'Sullivan

As Kerry's premier broadcaster, Weeshie Fogarty, reaches a significant birthday, it is time to salute a man who is a household name in the county and beyond.

For 2 hours on a Monday - Terrace Talk; for 1 hour on a Wednesday - In Conversation; for all senior and under 21 intercounty matches, for most major club matches, Weeshie reigns  on Radio Kerry.

When a match is broadcast, the attention is on Weeshie, even though he is the co-commentator. Once I was on the terraces in Austin Stack Park watching a club match but also listening to the Radio Kerry commentary. Observing this, another patron asked me "What does Weeshie think about it?" On another occasion, in a shop in Tralee, I overheard a discussion about whether or not a certain match would be televised. For one person, it didn't really matter. "At least we'll have Weeshie on the radio" she said.

Weeshie enjoyed a distinguished career in football, playing minor, under 21, junior and senior football for Kerry. He was sub goalkeeper on the 1969 Kerry team which won the county's 21st All-Ireland. An eye injury the following year ended his intercounty career but he continued to play for his club Legion and East Kerry and was part of the East Kerry team which won the first club football championship in 1972. Deeply involved with Legion, he has filled almost all administrative, coaching and managerial roles over the years. He became a referee and took the whistle for many county finals. As an intercounty referee, he had the distinction of issuing the first yellow cards in a GAA match.

Weeshie grew up in Killarney and in 1962 joined the staff of St Finan's Hospital as a psychiatric nurse. He worked there for 38 years and, as he retired, his broadcasting career was beginning to blossom. Beginning as a match reporter, he soon graduated to his now-familiar role in the commentary box and had a wonderful partnership with Liam Higgins until Liam's untimely death. Terrace Talk had started in 1998 as a one-hour programme and this, of course, was so successful that it later expanded to two hours. While Weeshie is primarily associated with gaelic games, Terrace Talk is an eclectic programme, covering all sports and frequently non-sporting topics. In recent weeks there have been features on athletics, boxing,  swimming and tae-kwando. Soccer, rugby, basketball and other sports are given airtime.  Major figures have been interviewed, from Mick O'Connell to Jack O'Connor to the late Moss Keane; non-Kerry sportspeople Dermot Earley and Seamus Darby; literary giants Brendan Kennelly and John B. Keane. The programme has won the prestigious PPI award for Sports Programme of the Year and Weeshie has won the Sports Broadcaster of the Year.

Weeshie recently set up his own website, with the assistance of Alan Groarke based in Colorado. An extensive site, it is an archive of immense value to all Kerry sports followers. It contains all the important interviews Weeshie has carried out over the years, important Radio Kerry sports programmes, information and statistics for Kerry teams going back for decades, a wide-ranging collection of sports photos- and much more.

At the end of last year, Weeshie and Christy Riordan produced the DVD Secrets of Kerry-A Captain's Story-another valuable contribution to Kerry GAA history. His book Dr Eamonn O'Sullivan A Man Before His Time is the definitive account of the great trainer who coached Kerry to 8 All-Ireland titles. Weeshie has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Kerry football, past and present, and a deep interest in ensuring that those who went before us will not be forgotten.

What is the secret of Weeshie's success? He is a man of the people, his name and face and voice instantly recognisable all over the county. Like a benevolent uncle, he has a genuine interest in people and an empathy with them. He puts interviewees at their ease and is calm, even in high-pressure studio and outside broadcast situations. He doesn't take himself too seriously and his instinct is to praise, not criticise. An apostle of positivity, for him, the glass is always half-full. His trademark greeting "How are you, my friend?" says a lot about him. Weeshie is a friend to all.

He is much in demand for charity work all over Kerry, often the first to be asked when a good cause needs a helping hand. Recently, he danced solo on the INEC stage for the B for Battens charity, receiving a standing ovation from 2000 people for his efforts. He is regularly asked to launch books, CDs, and act as MC at sporting and non-sporting functions.

Weeshie came late to broadcasting and journalism. While he can be described as a veteran, he also retains the enthusiasm and vigour of a much younger person and has an infectious interest in every topic discussed on his programmes.

Recently, Weeshie celebrated his 70th birthday. We take this opportunity to salute his contribution to life in Kerry and wish him many more years of health and happiness.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom