IT was sometime in 1973, a year or so after I joined the then Cork Examiner as a trainee/cub reporter that I first met Brendan Mooney.
I don’t quite know the finer details of his appointment, but he arrived in Cork from the Westmeath Examiner in tow with wife Ann to start a new life down South.
Both were journalists; Brendan landed a vacant reporters job that involved, I believe, a high emphasis on sport.
Back in the day, most reporters worked both news and sport but for those who didn’t do sport – like my late father way, way back in the day – there was an out.
Brendan was an “in” for sure; he was a top class amateur athlete on the track, he knew his athletics inside out and had a fair old handle on cycling, boxing and basketball too.
The first thing that struck me about Brendan was his easy-going personality and ability to laugh; it was so easy to feel comfortable in his company and I saw him back then as somebody who would be a very good colleague. He was all of that, and a type of mentor as well.
I didn’t know then after that early meet that he had plans for me on the athletic track! And if I was ultimately to prove a major disappointment to him in that regard, he never stopped trying to coax me out on the fields around Rochestown College (I think) as he bid to turn me into what he believed (or told me that) to be a potential 5000 metre star!
I did spend numerous nights running around in the cold, damp conditions but the party animal in me never really took his efforts seriously and eventually he/we gave up to allow me concentrate on the less taxing option of partying and dating.
Over the years, as our respective careers took shape and went in various directions, we remained close in terms of work commitments. I was working about 50-50 in news/sport, concentrating on all matters aviation on the one hand and rugby/soccer on the other.
Brendan was ploughing ahead making a big name for himself in the wide world of athletics and he built up a remarkable reputation with his knowledge of both the technicalities of the sport and the people that ranit/ ran for it or participated in any way in Ireland. He was to become the top Athletics Correspondent in the country and covered all of the big events right up to Olympic Games.
In cycling and boxing too, even basketball in the very good years, he became one of Ireland’s top go-to journalists and whenever the Examiner was mentioned in dispatches by anyone who mattered in the sports it was invariably linked to Brendan.
Occasionally, I held his coat as it were. I was brought in to cover cycling events such as the Ras Tailteann and Tour of Ireland whenever Brendan was unavailable, and on my first one I was clearly nervous because it just wasn’t my sport.
I need not have worried; Brendan had already spoken to the people who mattered, the Race Director down to team managers and on to Irish Independent, Irish Times and Irish Press correspondents, Con Kenneally, Jim McArdle and Peadar O’Brien respectively, to expect me and asked them to help me settle in.
I was able to do that immediately, I got some decent stories thanks to Brendan’s friends and contacts and that first tour paved the way to many more such opportunities in the coming years when I thoroughly enjoyed holding the master’s coat again.
Sport put us in different directions and our meetings inside the office were rare and mostly brief. But I always left Brendan feeling better than before I met him, and so too did none other than legendary singer Joe Dolan, who once worked in the production department of the Westmeath Examiner with journalist Brendan.
Anytime Joe was in town or near town, he made a habit of calling to the office to see Brendan. Around that time, I also generated copy for a Pop Music page and knew Joe Dolan in passing. But when he hit town, I was sometimes roped in as a drinking partner with the superstar, while Brendan happily stuck to a mineral.
I only saw Brendan show his temper on a couple of occasions; he didn’t raise his voice as I would have done but his clenched fist and change of facial colour was enough warning for those who wronged him to back off. For us looking on, it was funny to watch.
If he had any imperfection, as everyone does, it was his handwriting. Once upon a time in journalism, writers had to study and pass exams in shorthand.
It was necessary to have proficiency in shorthand to adequately cover court cases and other events such as council meetings, but more “handy” rather than imperative for sports coverage.
Brendan had his own form of shorthand that was really longhand and it took shape in an unwieldy looking scrawl completely unreadable to anyone but him.
I boldly asked him if I could make an attempt one day and as we laughed uncontrollably I came up with a translation that bore no resemblance to the words Brendan intended them to be.
“Shocking,” I told him. To which he responded that he knew: “I guess I should have been a Doctor!”
May he Rest in Peace