John Horgan pays tribute to Michael Ellard: God bless you and goodbye old pal

Former Cork Examiner and Evening Echo reporter was a massive figure in Cork sport
John Horgan pays tribute to Michael Ellard: God bless you and goodbye old pal

GAA President Sean Kelly presents a GAA MacNamee award to Michael Ellard at a dinner in the Burlington Hotel in 2003. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

THERE are some people who leave an indelible mark on the lives of those that they touch.

First impressions are lasting and lifelong friendships are forged. The late Michael Ellard, former GAA correspondent of the Cork Examiner, now the Irish Examiner, and Evening Echo, now The Echo, was one of those that fell into all three categories.

Ells, as he was affectionately known to those of us who had a close friendship with him for many years, was taken from us last weekend, another link severed with the newspaper industry of past times. That industry is much changed now, the emphasis very much on the new technological age, far removed from the typewriter, the biro and the pieces of paper that you wrote down the match details on.

Speed is of the essence now, getting the match report up online as quickly as possible, it’s a much-changed world and that will continue to be the case.

BRILLIANCE

Many tributes have been paid to Michael over the past few days, county board officials, players and supporters all remembering him for his brilliance as a top-class reporter who had a wonderful way with words in the construction of his match reports.

Those reports were taken from games across the length and breadth of the country, from Castletownbere to Croke Park, from Ballinlough to Ballinasloe and so on.

Back then the annual county convention and countless county board meetings often developed into fiery debates, long Sunday afternoons and equally long Tuesday nights in Cook Street and in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Erin's Own and Kilshannig players during a minute's silence for the late Michael Ellard at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Erin's Own and Kilshannig players during a minute's silence for the late Michael Ellard at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Michael hardly ever missed one, the Tuesday county board gatherings reported on the following night’s Echo and at that time Wednesday’s circulation figures were much higher because of Ellard’s in-depth detail of what transpired between the county board officers and the assembled delegates.

From a junior championship encounter in Ballinlough, Ballinascarthy or wherever to Munster final days in Thurles and Killarney, he was ever present, being one of the first into the dressing room afterwards to gather the thoughts of the management and players. That too, of course, is all changed too, access to those personnel is much more difficult now.

Michael never put pen to paper in a book form but if he did I am sure the highlights would outweigh the lowlights by many.

Páidí Ó Sé and Michael Ellard.
Páidí Ó Sé and Michael Ellard.

Cork coming in from the cold in 1973 to take back the Sam Maguire Cup after a 28-year absence would certainly have been a highlight. The All-Ireland hurling triumph of 1970 followed by the thrilling victories of the three-in-a-row team of ’76, ’77 and ’78 would rank at the very top of the achievements that he was so privileged to report on.

On the home front, there were just too many county senior finals in both codes to recall that he was present at and in many a clubhouse throughout the county his reports of those games take pride of place. One, of course, stands out, his beloved Na Piarsaigh’s first senior title in 1990 when they proved too strong for the Barrs.

Some of the people he had soldiered with were part of the great triumph, a day of days in that great club that he was so proud to have been part of.

As we stated, Michael never wrote a book but you could write a book about him and the lengthy span of time that he was one of the main men in front of the old typewriter and computer or on the phone to the excellent copy takers that were employed by the Examiner and Echo taking his report on the proceedings on the field that had concluded a short time earlier.

Former St Finbarr’s and Cork great, Tony Maher was a close friend of Ellard’s from their minor playing days and he has fond memories of him.

“When I heard that Mick had passed, I was very sad. We were friends for years and we played against each other at minor level. He was a marvellous writer, he had a great way with words, he had his own unique style and you could say in his reports he brought the game to life.

He wasn’t a man for loads of notes because he was able to visualise a game. When we were going well in the ‘70s and ‘80s Mick wrote some great reports of county finals that we were involved in.

“He understood the game, he understood players and the stress that they might be under before big games. I never heard him utter a bad word about anyone, he was a credit to his family and the games that he loved. We will all miss him.

Vice-chair of the county board, Pat Horgan has great memories of him too.

“The first thing I would say, every body has a Mick Ellard story. I have many from my time as chairman of Midleton and PRO of the County Board.

“His reports from county board meetings back in the day were exceptional, everybody waited for his Wednesday night report on the Echo.

“He was great with clubs and mentors and how he engaged with them and he came into his own with his Monday morning match reports. He was great company, people wanted to be in his company.

“I have scrapbooks of our own club Midleton from the ’80s and the name Michael Ellard was on 90% of the reports. 

He was many things, a great writer, a great character and friend, Cork GAA has lost a person who contributed so much.”

On a personal level, we were great friends for a long time, travelling together countless times. Sometimes he would question our arrangements, why are we going so early and so on.

But that didn’t matter, he was great company and I will miss him as will so many, many more.

In his own words, ‘God bless you boy, you are an old pal...’

That he was.

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