Bill O'Herlihy

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Bill O'Herlihy
Born Bill O'Herlihy
(1938-09-26) 26 September 1938 (age 75)
Glasheen, Cork, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Education St. Finbarr's College
Occupation Sports broadcaster, public relations executive
Years active 1965–2014
Notable credit(s) Newsbeat
7 Days
RTÉ Sport

Bill O'Herlihy (born 26 September 1938) is a retired Irish public relations executive and television broadcaster who used to work for Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), mainly covering sporting events.

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in Glasheen in Cork city, O'Herlihy was the son of a local government official and the grandson of William O'Herlihy, a Cork Examiner news editor. He was educated at Glasheen boys' national school and later at St. Finbarr's College, Farranferris.


After finishing his schooling at fifteen O'Herlihy followed his grandfather into journalism and secured a job in the reading room of the Cork Examiner. He was only seventeen years-old when he subsequently became sub-editor of the Evening Echo, a position he held for five years. He also graduated to the positions of news, features and sports reporter.[1]


In the early 1960s O'Herlihy began his broadcasting career when he started to do local soccer reports from Cork for Radió Éireann. In 1965 he made his first television broadcast in a programme commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania off the Cork coast. O'Herlihy found the experience to be a torturous one and thought that that would be the end of his career in television, however, to his amazement he was asked to continue as a reporter for the programme on a freelance basis. He continued to work as journalist for the Cork Examiner, however, he quickly gained a reputation for being one of Telefís Éireann's top journalists.

After three years O'Herlihy was asked to join RTÉ's current affairs programme 7 Days to add the required field-reporting skills to the studio-based interviews. The programme had a reputation for its hard-hitting investigative reporting and he reported on many varying stories from illegal fishing in Cork to the outbreak of the crisis in Northern Ireland. In November 1970 the 7 Days programme came into controversy when O'Herlihy reported a story on illegal money lending. The report was unconventional as it was one of the first television pieces to use hidden cameras, it claimed the government were not responding to illegal moneylending. A tribunal of inquiry would follow and O'Herlihy was forced to move away from current affairs.

O'Herlihy wasn't sacked as he had fifteen months left on his contract with RTÉ. He was instead moved to the RTÉ sports department where he worked under Michael O'Hehir, who disliked O'Herlihy and his broadcasting style. In spite of this O'Herlihy fronted RTÉ's television coverage of the Olympic Games that year.[2] He also became involved in the production of various sports programmes.

O'Herlihy was not long in the RTÉ sports department when he became a regular presenter for such programmes as Sunday Sport, Sports Stadium and Sunday Sports Show. In 1978 he became RTÉ Soccer host alongside panellist Eamon Dunphy, in 1984 John Giles joined the panel and Liam Brady did in 1998. Since 1974 Bill has become RTÉ's chief sports presenter for such events as all subsequent Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups, UEFA European Football Championships and European and World Track and Field Championships. He hosted RTÉ highlights of the Ryder Cup in 2006 when it was at the K Club in Ireland and He continues to present coverage of Ireland's soccer internationals for RTÉ, along with regular panellists Eamon Dunphy, Johnny Giles and Liam Brady. He used to host RTÉ coverage of Rugby Union in the 1980s and early 1990s but RTÉ got coverage of the Premier League in 1992 he dropped Rugby and Tom McGurk came in, therefore he did Premier League, Irish Internationals & The Champions League before dropping the Premier League in 2008. He keeps doing the Olympic Games and International Athletic Championships such as the European & World Athletics alongside his soccer commitments.

O'Herlihy presented RTÉ Sport's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, his ninth FIFA World Cup.[3][4] He has done 18 European and World Cups for RTÉ, most recently the 2014 Fifa World Cup.[5]

The 2014 FIFA World Cup was the final tournament that he covered before retiring.[6][7][8]

Public relations[edit]

As a result of the fallout of the 7 Days tribunal O'Herlihy appeared to quit journalism altogether in 1973 when he established a new public relations company called Public Relations of Ireland (O'Herlihy Communications).[9]

Political adviser[edit]

O'Herlihy had grown up in a family that had strongly supported the Fine Gael party and, in 1977, he became a media adviser to the party. He fulfilled that role for much of the next decade and was one of Garrett FitzGerald's "handlers" during his two-terms a Taoiseach in the 1980s.


Bill O'Herlihy (in the right of the little box) and the RTÉ soccer panel at Croke Park during the first leg of the 2010 FIFA World Cup playoff with France before disaster struck

In 2004, the Sunday Independent reported that O'Herlihy had lobbied on behalf of an Irish company, Bula Resources, to lift sanctions on Iraq.[10] Bula, which had former taoiseach Albert Reynolds as its chairman, was negatively affected by the existence of sanctions. Environmental lobbygroup and charity An Taisce also claim that O'Herlihy's company, on behalf of a client, was involved in political lobbying for a controversial land rezoning at Cherrywood in Dublin (see: The Mahon Tribunal).[11]

In 2012, O'Herlihy sparked controversy while covering Chloe Magee's progress at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London by suggesting badminton was once considered "a mainly Protestant sport". RTÉ confirmed it received complaints about O'Herlihy's sectarian remarks on live television.[12] Magee criticised O'Herlihy, calling his remark "stupid",[13] though it was also argued that the remark inadvertently reflected a complex historical reality.[14] O'Herlihy's consultancy company does PR and lobbying work on behalf of the tobacco industry in Ireland, which is under scrutiny for attempts to influence government health and budget policy.[15]


  1. ^ "Bill's journey to the top (part 2)". Conor Culkin Blog. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Veteran Bill to be RTE's Olympics frontman – at 73". Evening Herald. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  3. ^ Black, Fergus (2 June 2010). "RTÉ hopes Ossie and squad will spur fans to back home team". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  4. ^ O'Malley, Carl (2 June 2010). "RTÉ roll out big guns for their 56 live games". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "Bill 'tempted to do Euro 2012 jig on desk'". RTÉ Ten. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Bill's to bow out after Cup run of 49 years". Irish Independent. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "Move over Dunphy… RTÉ adds new faces to World Cup coverage". The Score. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "‘I take my leave with so many great memories’: Billo’s tribute and farewell speech". The Score. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "O'Herlihy Communications". O'Herlihy Communications. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  10. ^ 'Bula paid O'Herlihy to lobby for Iraq' – Sunday Independent 22.02.04., Finfacts Ireland reporting of the incident and explaining its context.
  11. ^ Press release by An Taisce. 28 May 2003.
  12. ^ Maguire, Stephen (31 July 2012). "Magee bats off O'Herlihy 'Protestant' comment". The Irish Times (Irish Times Trust). Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Harkin, Greg (31 July 2012). "Bill slammed after 'Protestant' badminton gaffe". Evening Herald (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Bad form for Bill to discuss badminton for Protestants, Niall Meehan, (, 6 August 2012)
  15. ^ Press release on behalf of Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee.