The late Echo/Examiner reporter Michael Ellard remembered as one of a kind

“Mick became a legend in Cork and everybody knew him and everybody respected him."
The late Echo/Examiner reporter Michael Ellard remembered as one of a kind

John Horgan, and Michael Ellard, pictured at a function in Sarsfields Hurling Club in 2016. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The legendary Cork sports journalist Michael Ellard, whose death was announced on Saturday, will be remembered as a brilliant writer and a great friend, according to his former colleague John Horgan.

A reporter for the Evening Echo and The Cork Examiner (later The Examiner and Irish Examiner), Ellard’s prose was read for four decades. His final submission came in the May 10, 2010 issue of the Examiner, reporting on Muskerry’s county SHC win over Avondhu.

While most at home covering sport, he was adept and versatile enough to switch to news when the occasion demanded it – in September 1970, he was in Belfast to cover a European Cup game between Glentoran and Waterford but had a front-page story focusing on the explosion of a bomb in the city.

Before becoming a staff reporter, Ellard’s names had often appeared in the pages of the local media as a result of his exploits with Na Piarsaigh in hurling and football, while he was part of the Cork squad which reached the 1965 All-Ireland U21 football final.

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Though his playing career had to be curtailed as a result of his journalistic duties, he was present at so many great occasions for club and county, documenting them for posterity.

When Piarsaigh won the county SHC for the first time in 1990, beating St Finbarr’s after a replay, Ellard captured the occasion thus: “It was a long and lonely wait, punctuated with sorry, heartbreak and bitter disappointment but all those sad and painful memories were banished into oblivion when Na Piarsaigh thrillingly overcame the marvellous challenge of St Finbarr’s at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday to win their first Cork county senior hurling championship title in one of the great finals of the modern era.

“For over three decades of fruitless endeavour, Na Piarsaigh had sought this previous title. And as time aged, many must have felt that this northside club, synonymous with all that is good in underage competition, would be destined to play the role of bridesmaid in the most famous of all senior championships.”

Another drought-ending victory that was close to this heart was Cork winning the All-Ireland football title in 1973, the first in 28 years. Earlier that summer, John Horgan joined the company and encountered Ellard for the first time.

“It was a Monday morning and I was fierce nervous as I knew nobody,” he says.

Meeting Mick was huge as he was like an idol to me as someone who was always big into GAA. We became great friends and soldiered together.

“In those days, the media world was very different to now – you’d phone in your piece and the newspaper might be the first time people would come across a story or a match report.

“Mick became a legend in Cork and everybody knew him and everybody respected him. He was a very good reporter and his language was very descriptive and flowery. The intro was the big thing for him – he might spend a half-hour thinking of what to say and make four or five attempts.

“He was very knowledgeable and a great reader of the game. County board meetings were a big thing at the time – there would be fiery debates and he would report them brilliantly. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Michael Ellard sold the Echo on a Wednesday night.”

Michael Ellard interviews Cork County Board secretary Frank Murphy in 1987. 
Michael Ellard interviews Cork County Board secretary Frank Murphy in 1987. 

However, despite his many talents, one thing Ellard never managed was to learn how to drive and so he would have to make his way to matches via public transport or by arranging a lift.

“You’d get a call from him,” Horgan says, “and he’d say, ‘I believe you’re travelling today – what time will you pick me up?’ Sometimes, we’d have disagreements about the travel arrangements but still, I wouldn’t say a bad word about him and neither would anyone else. 

He was great company and a lovely man. It’s the end of an era, in many ways, given the way the reports are live now as soon as a match is over. 

"Mick was a one-of-a-kind, a brilliant writer and a great friend, and we were all the better for having known him.”

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